Stoke City 3 Sunderland 2

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POOR refereeing from Lee Probert and his officials cost Sunderland dearly on an afternoon when the Wearsiders outplayed the home side for most of the match but couldn’t get a break from those in charge of the game.

Offside goals twice brought City level but the way, direct and physical Stoke crowd the box on set-pieces they’ve always got the potential to beat the officials as well as the opposition.

Sunderland had the best possible start to the game, taking the lead in only the second minute of the game when Kieran Richardson capitalised on the danger caused by a Phil Bardsley ball into the box.

Stoke levelled in the 32nd minute when a Rory Delap throw-in caused problems and Craig Gordon was unable to clear, the ball dropping to Carew who was offisde when he stabbed it over the line.

Sunderland regained the lead in the 48th minute when debutant Sulley Muntari lofted a ball forward from the centre-circle and Asamoah Gyan gained possession from Robert Huth to drive a low shot across Asmir Begovic.

Stoke levelled in the 83rd minute from a Jermaine Pennant free-kick but Carew, offside when the ball was delivered, got his head to it and Robert Huth got a final touch to edge it across the line.

And City completed an undeserved turn-around in time added when another Pennant free-kick was bundled home inside the six-yard box.

Sunderland were the better footballing side on the day; all of Stoke’s goals came from set-pieces but Steve Bruce will recognise he didn’t get any breaks from the officials but he will still feel his side should have been much stronger than they were on the day against Stoke’s route-one tactics.

* Full report, pictures and reaction in tonight’s Football Echo.