SUNDERLAND crashed to their worst defeat of the season and could have no complaints after being comprehensively outplayed by the resurgent Baggies.
Having not lost by more than a goal all season, they were two goals down by the break.
But it could have been more after in-form Peter Odemwingie gave Albion an early lead when he took advantage of slack marking to nod home Youssouf Mulumbu’s cross from the left.
Sunderland just weren’t at the races in the first half – skipper Lee Cattermole being the only one producing near decent form – and had to be grateful to some fine save from Simon Mignolet to keep them in it.
There was nothing he could, though, about Albion’s second in the 40th minute when Sunderland failed to play to the whistle, the referee waved play on after a foul by the visitors, and Jerome Thomas crossed from the left for James Morrison to head home.
Angry Martin O’Neill made two changes at the break – Kieran Richardson and Jack Colback off, Nicklas Bendtner and Fraizer Campbell on – but it made little difference in the early stages and Albion extended their lead in the 48th minute when Odemwingie grabbed his second, running on to a pull back from Marc-Antoine Fortune on the left of the Sunderland area.
Sunderland tried to get something out of the game and should have at least got on the scoresheet when Campbell’s shot hit the crossbar, went beyond the goal-line and bounced out again but the linesman had already, wrongly, flagged for offside.
It was that sort of day for Sunderland and it got worse when Keith Andrews curled a first time shot home in the 90th minute to make it a resounding 4-0 defeat.
Hardly the ideal preparation for Sunderland’s next away trip, to the Sports Direct Arena and the game against Newcastle, a week tomorrow.
* Report and pictures in tonight’s Football Echo