Sunderland 1-5 Blackburn Rovers: Campaign plumbs new depths with shocking defensive performance

Sunderland fell to a 5-1 defeat against a struggling Blackburn Rovers side on Monday afternoon
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Sunderland's faltering Championship campaign plumbed new depths on Monday afternoon as they were beaten 5-1 by struggling Blackburn Rovers.

The Black Cats were opened up on the break time and time again as a 40,000+ crowd watched on in dismay. Here's the story of the game and it's key talking points from a Sunderland perspective...


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Sunderland had looked like a side who had found their footing after a dismal run at Cardiff City and you could see the confidence running through the side in the opening minutes. Dodds had made just two changes to his side, with Patrick Roberts returning on the right and Romaine Mundle playing off the left. The Black Cats were moving the ball well and created some good early opening, albeit without really testing Aynsley Pears in the Blackburn goal.

Callum Styles put across an excellent cross from the left which Adil Aouchiche rose highest to meet, but his header was easily saved. It was a similar a couple of minutes later when the Black Cats combined nicely down the left flank, eventually working the ball to Pierre Ekwah whose shot was on target but never in danger of finding the net. The signs looked promising though, with the crowd encouraged by a front-footed start.


It was a tempo that Sunderland couldn't maintain, and in truth the visitors were in the ascendancy even before their double strike midway through the half. A cross dropped awkwardly for Joe Rankin-Costello, who took a touch before unleashing a volley that Luke O'Nien did very well to block. Moments later, Dolan worked himself into a very dangerous position on the edge of the box but could drag his effort well wide of the far post.

The visitors struck when Roberts slipped deep in his own half, allowing Dolan to get into an advanced position. A clever pass released Sammie Szmodics who having scored 27 times this season, was never likely to miss and converted a simple finish beyiond Patterson and into the far corner. Before long it was two, Blackburn again exploiting Sunderland's right flank. Rankin-Costello flashed an excellent low ball across the face of goal and Szmodics was there to meet it, scoring from just a couple of yards.

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Sunderland had dropped alarmingly off the pace in the game, punished for their loose play. Blackburn's intensity had been far superior after the opening exchanges and they had got their reward. There were signs of life from the hosts on the cusp of half time as a cross from Styles just evaded Jobe in the box - the left back had shown some drive and intent in the first half and was arguably the one positive from a Sunderland perspective.


Sunderland looked to start the second half on the front foot but were 3-0 down inside of a minute. They overplayed deep in the Blackburn half and lost the ball with too many players ahead of it, Blackburn again using the opportunity to break at pace and in numbers. Gallagher showed good footwork to get into the box and Hedges did the rest from there, taking the ball off his team-mate and converting a simple finish past Patterson and into the corner.

It went from bad to worse shortly afterwards as Dan Neil lost possession inside his own box, allowing Dolan to drive towards goal and score off the inside of the post. Thousands took that as their cue to depart, Sunderland having delivered an appalling performance after an encouraging first ten minutes.


Dodds rang the changes after Blackburn's fourth, turning to Jack Clarke after his unexpectedly swift return to the bench from an ankle injury. Dodds also turned to Bradley Dack and Chris Rigg, who would combine to get the hosts on the scoreboard with just over ten minutes to play.

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Sunderland had barely flickered up until that moment, aside from one clever Dack flick that allowed Clarke to put a cross goal that someone should have been there to convert. A quick free kick allowed Neil to lift a nice chipped pass onto the head of Dack, whose effort was saved by Pears but fell straight into the path of Rigg - who couldn't miss from hust a couple of yards out.

The reprieve was painfully brief for the home supporters, Blackburn again carving them open on the break just a moment or two later. Dolan crossed to the back post and though Szmodics couldn't convert his hat-trick goal, his effort fell for Moran a yard out.


Blackburn deserved a lot of credit for executing their gameplan, waiting for Sunderland to overplay in dangerous areas and breakiung at pace and in numbers when the opportunity presented itself. To their credit, they had played with a desire and application that has gone some way to easing their relegation woes.

Sunderland's performance stood in stark contrast. It was a shocking afternoon for the Black Cats and a near empty Stadium of Light at the full-time whistle told its own story. Sunderland had been so poor that it was a wonder anyone had stayed at all - the supporters were badly let down by both the desire and quality on show here.

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Sunderland XI: Patterson; Hume, Ballard, O'Nien, Styles; Neil, Ekwah; Roberts (Rigg, 54), Aouchiche (Dack, 54), Mundle (Clarke, 54); Jobe

Subs: Bishop, Pembele, Burstow, Hemir, Ba, Hjelde

Blackburn Rovers XI: Pears; Brittain, Hyam, Wharton, Pickering (Chrisene, 19); Rankin-Costello (Buckley, 73), Tronstad; Hedges (Carter, 73), Dolan, Szmodics; Gallagher (Moran, 67)

Subs: Wahlstedt, Markanday, Telovic, Ayari, McFadzean


Attendance: 42,019

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