West Brom 2-0 Sunderland: First-half goals from Fletcher and Brunt enough to tame sinking Black Cats

Sunderland's deficiencies were again laid bare as they crashed to the bottom of the table, this time in a 2-0 defeat to West Brom.

Saturday, 21st January 2017, 3:52 pm
Updated Saturday, 21st January 2017, 3:57 pm
Denayer watches Brunt's second go in

Two first-half goals from Darren Fletcher and Chris Brunt were enough to settle the contest.

In what is becoming a painfully recurring theme, Sunderland were devoid of inspiration up front and slack in their own box.

Anichebe made his comeback from injury.

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If the second half was an improvement or sorts, it never threatened the hosts, who always looked in control. Those looking for hope will cling on to the return of Victor Anichebe from injury, but his presence will not be enough if they team continue to perform like this.

If the start of the game was hardly sparkling, there was some small encouragement in an uneventful opening.

John O'Shea was largely coping with the threat of Salomon Rondon, competing well in the air, while the Black Cats appeared to be making a conscious effort not to lump aimless long balls.

Even then, however, the warning signs were there.

Anichebe made his comeback from injury.

Matt Phillips, in a superb run of form, was showing both superior pace and power to Patrick van Aanholt and Papy Djilobodji, the Baggies looking to get the ball to him with chipped passes at every opportunity.

On fifteen minutes, he coasted down the flank and slid in Nacer Chadli. Fortunately for Sunderland, his cross was wild. West Brom went close when the Belgian crossed for Salomon Rondon, his header diverted wide by Phillips, just yards out.

On the half hour mark, the opener. A corner to the edge of the area, Brunt towering above Seb Larsson, Jack Rodwell sliced his clearance, the Baggies heading back into the danger area. Darren Fletcher was left with oceans of space, to touch, turn and volley home.

Just five minutes later, a painfully predictable second. Phillips powered away again, his low cross palmed into Chaldi's feet by Mannone. He somehow hit the bar, but Brunt hammered home the rebound.

Sunderland had mustered one shot on target, according to the official statistics, but never tested Ben Foster.

The second half brought a formation change, the Black Cats switching from the back five to a flat 4-4-2. It brought a marginal improvement, Jack Rodwell firing over from the edge of the box.

Sunderland were seeing most of the ball, winning a number of free-kicks to the West Brom goal. Rarely did they come close, the hosts largely keeping them at arms length.

Unsurprisingly, Moyes turned to Victor Anichebe, in search of spark, presence, fight.

He brought physicality, certainly, but his side were still labouring. They did manage to build a nice move down the right flank but Billy Jones headed straight at Foster. The keeper was scrambling moments later, turning a van Aanholt shot over the bar following a deflection.

James McClean was introduced to a chorus of boos from the away end, but his cross was met by Rondon who almost made it 3-0 with just ten minutes to play.

That was the last meaningful act of another wretched afternoon for the Sunderland faithful.