Sunderland 2 Burnley 0: Defoe, Wickham end Cats’ homesickness in style

Jermain Defoe celebrates scoring his first Sunderland goal, putting the Black Cats two up on Burnley today. Picture by Frank Reid

Jermain Defoe celebrates scoring his first Sunderland goal, putting the Black Cats two up on Burnley today. Picture by Frank Reid

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JERMAIN Defoe’s first Sunderland goal helped the Black Cats end their home sickness, with a crucial three points against fellow strugglers Burnley.

Sunderland recorded only their second Premier League victory of the campaign at the Stadium of Light - and their first since October - to move four points clear of the relegation zone.

Connor Wickham gave Sunderland the ideal start when he headed home his fourth of the season in the 20th minute, before new signing Defoe doubled the advantage before half-time with a typical poacher’s goal.

Burnley never threatened any hint of a second half comeback, with Sunderland controlling proceedings and both of their goalscorers having opportunities to add to the margin of victory.

Gus Poyet reverted to a four-man defence after two games playing with three centre-halves, as he made FIVE changes to his starting XI.

Adam Johnson and Costel Pantilimon both returned to the starting line-up after missing the previous weekend’s FA Cup stalemate against Fulham, but the three other changes to the side were more surprising.

Connor Wickham was preferred to Steven Fletcher in attack, Anthony Reveillere came in for Billy Jones at right-back, and Jordi Gomez replaced the suspended Jack Rodwell.

Wickham and Johnson operated either side of Jermain Defoe, with the duo tucked inside from the flanks.

Burnley were unchanged for the ninth successive Premier League game.

Sunderland had the ball in the net in the 12th minute when Connor Wickham held off Kieran Trippier to Defoe’s deflected pass, before firing the ball into the far corner.

But referee Lee Mason had already penalised Wickham for a foul, although replays suggested there was minimal contact.

Burnley blew the chance to go in front in the 18th minute when David Jones whipped in a viscious inswinging free-kick from the vicinity of the right-hand corner flag.

Ashley Barnes got above Reveillere, but glanced his header a couple of yards wide.

Moments later, it was Sunderland who got their noses in front.

Mason played a good advantage for a foul by Ben Mee on Seb Larsson, and the Swede duly delivered a cutting ball in behind for Reveillere to run onto.

Reveillere delivered a pinpoint cross onto the head of Wickham, who nodded the ball back beyond the keeper into the far corner.

Sunderland passed the ball around confidently in the exchanges that followed, but had a scare in the 29th minute when Burnley managed to scramble the ball to George Boyd, 12 yards out, although his off-balance shot on the turn was comfortable for Pantilimon low to his right.

But getting their noses in front had given Sunderland a big boost and they doubled their advantage in the 34th minute.

Gomez collected Johnson’s square pass and played a beautifully-weighted ball in behind the Burnley defence for Patrick van Aanholt.

The left-back’s pull-back left Burnley keeper Tom Heaton stranded and Defoe cushioned it into the empty net to open his Sunderland account.

HALF-TIME Sunderland 2 Burnley 0

Defoe should have had a second within two minutes of the restart after Johnson surged inside off the left and picked out the overlapping run of van Aanholt.

The left-back pulled the ball back to Defoe, 10 yards out, but he looped a harmless first-time left-footed shot straight at Heaton.

At the other end, Barnes again should have made more of a 56th minute opening, when Boyd’s cross from the left fell to him eight yards out.

The ex-Brighton striker wasn’t expecting the ball to come his way though and it bounced harmlessly off him.

Moments later, Santiago Vergini’s interception on Danny Ings fell to Barnes 25 yards out, but his drive was deflected a couple of yards wide.

That was Burnley’s first spell of pressure, but it didn’t last long, Wickham skying Johnson’s pull-back a couple of feet over the bar from the edge of the area in the 66th minute.

Larsson whipped a vicious free-kick just over the crossbar from a tight angle on the left-hand side of the area with 15 minutes to go.

Burnley showed few signs of mounting a comeback - Mee glancing a header high and wide from substitute Ross Wallace’s corner with seven minutes to go.

The Clarets went close to a stoppage time consolation goal when Jason Shackell’s header from Wallace’s corner was parried by Pantilimon before being gathered at the second attempt by the Romanian.

FULL-TIME Sunderland 2 Burnley 0

SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Reveillere, Vergini, O’Shea, van Aanholt, Bridcutt, Gomez, Larsson, Johnson (Alvarez 86), Wickham (Graham 76), Defoe (Fletcher 75). Subs not used: Mannone, Jones, Alvarez, Coates, Giaccherini. Booked: Johnson (69), Larsson (88), Pantilimon (90)

BURNLEY: Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Keane, Mee, Jones, Marney, Arfield, Boyd (Wallace 61), Ings (Jutkiewicz 61), Barnes (Vokes 76). Subs not used: Gilks, Duff, Kightly, Reid. Booked: Marney (90)

Attendance: 44,022