Alex Neil makes a winning return to Wearside as Stoke humble Sunderland
Alex Neil celebrated a comprehensive 5-1 win on his return to Sunderland with Stoke, on what turned out to be a controversial afternoon at the Stadium of Light.
A frustrated Tony Mowbray, who replaced Neil on Wearside last August following promotion, was cautioned for questioning the manner in which the Potters scored the opener four minutes before half-time through Josh Laurent.
After that Stoke wrapped things up with two second-half goals each for Tyrese Campbell and Dwight Gayle sealing a comfortable victory, despite Alex Pritchard pulling one back in between for Sunderland.
The PA announcer also had to ask supporters not to throw missiles after something appeared to be thrown at former Newcastle striker Gayle as he celebrated his first goal close to a section of the home supporters.
There was very little between the two sides when Laurent’s opener arrived after an incident that incensed Sunderland.
Referee Jeremy Simpson had stopped play for a head injury when Ki-Jana Hoever was wiped out by his goalkeeper, Matija Sarkic, as he missed a punch for the ball.
When defender Morgan Fox cleared off the line during that attack, Sunderland appeared to be in control before the official stopped play.
Simpson chose to restart by dropping an uncontested ball for Sarkic. He immediately rolled out to Hoever, who had just been allowed to re-enter the field of play, and his pass led to Stoke attacking down the right. Will Smallbone’s cutback was perfect for Laurent to hammer in.
Simpson side-stepped Mowbray and cautioned him after he had approached him on the field of play after the half-time whistle, and boos rang around the Stadium of Light.
The home side found no way back, meaning a third successive defeat and they are now six points from sixth place in the table, as Stoke inflicted a record-equalling heaviest defeat for Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Before the first goal, Jack Clarke and Amad Diallo had threatened at times to breakdown the Stoke defence.
But when the second half got under way, with Stoke leading and Sarkic replaced by Jack Bonham in the Stoke goal, things got even better for the visitors.
Sunderland midfielder Dan Neil’s attempted backpass was charged down by Gayle in the 53rd minute and the striker quickly found Smallbone, whose pass left Campbell with the simple task of tapping into an empty net.
Less than four minutes later Campbell brilliantly curled in his second after seeing an initial shot blocked.
Pritchard pulled one back for Sunderland by turning in Patrick Roberts’ low cross at the near post in the 63rd minute but Gayle powered in from close range six minutes later after Patterson had denied Fox.
With 14 minutes remaining Gayle, enjoying his first game at this venue, headed in Smallbone’s free-kick to finish the scoring – and he narrowly missed being hit with a missile too.
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