THE big statistic hanging over the game before kick-off was that should Sunderland lose to West Ham, this would be the first time the Black Cats had suffered three consecutive league defeats under Martin O’Neill,
In the end, it was never an issue.
Sunderland went ahead after 12 minutes through Seb Larsson’s super strike – they might well have taken it earlier – and once they took the lead, they never really looked like relinquishing it.
By the end of the 90 minutes, those who might have come to bury Caesar, had no alternative but to praise him after his side’s best overall display of the season.
And O’Neill was quick to acknowledge that this was a Sunderland performance worth writing about – not just a convincing victory but a convincing overall display too.
“It was a great win for us,” he enthused.
“We got off to a really good start, but I thought we played well throughout the game.
“Stephane Sessegnon did great, David Vaughan was terrific and then Seb Larsson has scored a great goal and for the next 15 minutes has not put a foot wrong.
“All around the pitch, though, I was pleased.
“We had essentially two midfield players – for example – playing in full-back positions.
“Craig Gardner has played there so regularly this season he seems to make light of it.
“And Jack Colback played remarkably well in the absence of Danny Rose – very composed, read situations well and took advantage of the support he received from James McClean.
“Alongside Sessegnon, Fletcher led the line brilliantly while at at the back, Titus Bramble settled down and did very, very well.
“I just thought all around the pitch there was an air of confidence about us and that transmitted itself to the crowd.”
It was a big win, given that victory brings Sunderland into striking range of West Ham a couple of places above them in the Premier League table and also lifts the Wearsiders six points clear of the drop zone.
But O’Neill was clear that a one-off performance as good as this one will mean nothing unless Sunderland can maintain such levels consistently.
“Against West Ham we played very well, but I wouldn’t want us to get too carried away,” he said.
“We still have work to do to become a proper team.”