Match Report: WBA 4-0 Sunderland - Cats Get The Stuffing They Deserve

MON 7

Following what was probably the best performance of the season last time out, hopes were certainly high for this one on bright day in the midlands as the teams took to the pitch.

What Sunderland produced, however, was little short of a disgrace. Players in red and white stripes happily ambling round the Hawthorns pitch as if it was a lazy weekend stroll in the local park. This was, it must be said, just as poor as even the very worst that Sunderland ever produced under Steve Bruce.

Talk in the week was dominated over whether Lee Cattermole would retain his place in the line-up at WBA. The captain has been in fine form since Martin O'Neill's arrival, and put in an absolutely imperious FA Cup display against Arsenal, but a booking would rule him out of next week's Tyne/Wear derby. In the end, the manager appears to have taken the more pragmatic view that there were as many points available at the Hawthorns as there are at the Sports Direct Arena next week, and named Cattermole as part of an unchanged team.

There was a return to the squad for Nicklas Bendtner, however. The Dane took his place on the bench alongside new England man Fraizer Campbell. The Baggies made just the one change, handing a home debut to Keith Andrews who deputised for the injured Paul Scharner.

Within 3 minutes, Sunderland were behind. Having failed to clear an initial attack, Mulumu drilled a cross into the box. Peter Odemwingie's run was too clever for Michael Turner and Kieran Richardson, and the Nigerian headed home past Mignolet - setting the tone for the following 90 minutes in the process.

Given the form under Martin O'Neill, we sat back and waited for a reaction. The players did too, though, and the sum of their efforts were two meek long-range efforts from Craig Gardner and James McClean failing to connect with a Phil Bardsley cross when well positioned at the back post.

In what we like to call 'vintage Sunderland style', however, just when you thought things could only get better, they suddenly got worse. Lee Cattermole, perhaps worrying too much about a potential booking, completely neglected to put Jerome Thomas under any pressure on the WBA left. The former Charlton man accepted the invitation to cross and effortlessly picked out James Morrison at the back post who placed his header into the far corner of the net.

O'Neill responded at half time by throwing on two strikers, with Fraizer Campbell and Nicklas Bendtner replacing Kieran Richardson and Jack Colback, but within 3 minutes the result was put beyond any doubt. Albion counter-attacked with ease. Fortune, pulled the ball back for Odemwingie, so often the scourge of Sunderland, to add his second.

Minutes later, Phil Bardsley emulated the defending of his captain for the second goal as he backed off Jerome Thomas on the edge of the area and the winger ( who may well have left this game wondering if he has a serious personal hygiene problem considering how reluctant Sunderland players were to go anywhere near him) looked for the top corner with a curling shot. Only the crossbar spared Sunderland the punishment the defending warranted.

With the hosts' motivation on the wane, Sunderland came into it more and had a few chances to try and salvage a little pride. Cattermole shot over having done the hard work to fashion the opportunity, and Craig Gardner finally found his shooting boots only to find Ben Foster equal to it in the Albion goal, and Turner headed wide from a Wayne Bridge free kick.

Fraizer Campbell could feel a little aggrieved to have a goal ruled out for offside late on. Teed up by Bendtner, Campbell forced the ball over the line off the underside of the bar, but the linesman thought the Sunderland striker had enjoyed his week too much already and raised his flag.

There was just enough time for WBA to rub a little salt in the wounds. Playing keep-ball around the statuesque visitors and the ball was eventually worked into Andrews who, in a recurring theme, had all the space and time he wanted to pick his spot to complete the route.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (4), Bardsley (3), Turner (3), O'Shea (4), Richardson (3), Larsson (3), Colback (3), Cattermole (4), Gardner (5), McClean (4), Sessegnon (3)

Subs Used: Campbell (4), Bendtner (4), Bridge (4)

Who Annoyed Me Least: Craig Gardner - Make no mistake about it: This was no 'Man Of The Match' competition so has been renamed accordingly. No one excelled or even produced a performance worthy of merit. Gardner was poor, but his movement and desire to get into attacking positions at least provided evidence that he never allowed his head to drop. The fact that was the best we could offer, pretty much tells you all you need to know about this one.

Sunderland were, it must be said, shocking. There was none of the urgency and energy that has defined O'Neill's reign so far and they got exactly what they deserved.

The Baggies were allowed to do what they wanted with the ball, but when they didn't have it they were excellent. They were industrious and earned the right to play, hunting the ball down in packs and never accepting being second to a loose ball. They out-Sunderlanded Sunderland, in that regard, and then had the quality and ruthlessness to dish out to O'Neill's men precisely what they deserved.

A little complacency creeping in or the end of the honeymoon period? A much-reality check? Time will tell. But I am happy to take this one on the chin, congratulate WBA, and draw a line under it.

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