Sunderland 3-0 Scunthorpe
Sunderland ran out comfortable victors against a lacklustre Scunthorpe side after three first half goals.
Lee Cattermole retained his place in the starting eleven, keen to continue his form from what had been an impressive performance in the home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. Elsewhere, Glenn Loovens returned to the side in place of the somewhat shaky Alim Ozturk - who perhaps needs more time to settle into his new surroundings.
The opening exchanges were simply all Sunderland. The movement and pace of the Sunderland front four was too much for Scunthorpe to handle. Honeyman, Gooch, Maguire, and Maja looked very sharp as Sunderland held possession; the pick of the opening forays a low drive by Maguire that was tipped around the post.
At the other end, Jack Baldwin and Glenn Loovens looked comfortable while in the middle Lee Cattermole and Max Power marshalled the midfield exceptionally well. As the half wore on, Sunderland were looking more and more likely to make something happen.
The breakthrough came in the 22nd minute. Some great play spread the ball from right to left where Oviedo jinked inside of his man and curled a lovely ball into the Scunthorpe area. There, Max Power found himself with time and space before planting a header firmly past the opposition keeper. Sunderland’s great play had been rewarded.
Josh Maja soon found Sunderland’s second with another predatory finish. After Matthews cross into the Scunthorpe area was cleared away, a clever pass from Lee Cattermole found Oviedo who in turn found Maja. A quick turn from the young forward saw enough time for a snap-shot which flew into the bottom right corner. Sunderland dominating the game.
Chris Maguire then found Sunderland’s third in the 42nd minute. Lynden Gooch powered into the opposition penalty box before cutting back across goal. Chris Maguire applied the killer touch with an impressive back-heel. A simply brilliant first-half performance, the first time since 2011 that Sunderland have managed three goals in a first-half at home!
Sunderland started the second half as they finished the first - dominant and direct in their attacking intentions - an incredible Max Power volley flying just wide before Oviedo flashed a bending shot over the bar.
Scunthorpe has a speculative effort of their own shortly after, though McLaughlin was more than equal to Perch’s drive. Adam Matthews was then forced off with injury - Reece James on as his replacement.
The game quietened down somewhat after the injury break, Sunderland content to retain possession, patiently waiting to find an opening. A brief flurry of pace and ingenuity forced a corner, Cattermole heading narrowly over.
Chris Maguire was next to leave the field as Bali Mumba came on for the final 20 minutes or so, Sunderland firmly in control of the match with 69% of the possession entering the final quarter of the game.
A quick counter-attack from Sunderland almost secured a fourth goal. George Honeyman knocked down a wonderful cross from the brilliant Oviedo, only for Josh Maja to scuff a left-footed strike wide of the mark. If truth be told, that was the last real chance of the game as the second half failed to live up to the first - though few Sunderland fans would be found complaining.
Luke O’Nien replaced George Honeyman for the final exchanges and the officials soon signalled for 4 minutes of added time. Little else transpired on the pitch, Sunderland securing a fantastic victory and a vitally important clean sheet that moved Sunderland up to fourth.
McLaughlin, 7/10: Really calm and confident. Couple of good saves, commanded his area very well.
Oviedo, 8/10: Two assists, and a great performance in general. Cut above at this level.
Matthews, 7/10: Solid again at full-back. Does the basics well and offers an outlet going forward.
Baldwin, 8/10: Really good performance again from Baldwin who looks very good alongside Loovens.
Loovens, 8/10: Also did very well against quite a physical Scunthorpe side. Calming influence.
Cattermole, 8/10: Fantastic performance from Cattermole. Has taken some stick recently, but was very good here today.
Power, 9/10: Moves the ball well, took his goal well, gets stuck in. Great performance, was at the heart of everything good.
Honeyman, 7/10: Does well recycling possession, keeps things ticking over nicely.
Maguire, 7/10: Lovely finish for his goal and good movement throughout the game.
Gooch, 8/10: Frightens defenders with his pace and trickery, and also makes things happen all over the park.
Maja, 7/10: Took his goal well, but also missed a sitter! Canny performance from a man who just can’t stop scoring right now - that’s all that really matters.
(SUB) James, 6/10: Came on for Matthews, and looked solid if unspectacular. Definitely needs minutes.
(SUB) Mumba, 6/10: Showed some nice touches, and good vision.
(SUB) O’Nien, N/A: Chased the ball well, but not on for long enough to make any real impact.
Man of the Match: Max Power.