McClean on the mark as Sunderland revival goes into overdrive
Wigan 1 Sunderland 4
Published 04/01/2012 | 05:00
Martin O'Neill got the chance to become Sunderland manager only after a home defeat to Wigan cost his predecessor, Steve Bruce, his job, but a comprehensive victory in the return fixture shows just how far the Black Cats have come since.
Riding their luck in the first half, Sunderland scored either side of half-time to crush home spirits. And when Hugo Rodallega pulled one back for Wigan, they scored another two in devastating breaks.
It was Sunderland's fourth win in six games since O'Neill took over, a 13-point haul which has taken them from the cusp of the relegation zone into the top half of the table.
On present form, the Wearsiders will be dreaming of a late European push.
Wigan, on the other hand, look like relegation material again, despite a recent revival.
Entertaining without ever moving beyond mediocre, Wigan should have been in front just after the half-hour. To hit one post is frustrating, to hit two in the same move infuriating, but having seen David Jones hit the left upright following a one-two with Albert Crusat, Ben Watson crashed the rebound against the opposite post.
The failure to turn possession into goals is not a new Wigan failing and they were punished ruthlessly in first-half stoppage-time when Craig Gardner -- given the set-piece only because Seb Larsson was injured -- drilled a free-kick past Ali Al-Habsi.
Sunderland doubled their advantage 10 minutes into the second half and Roberto Martinez will have to question the desire of his defenders.
James McClean's first header was saved by Al-Habsi but the Northern Irish winger was able to nod the rebound in for his first Premier League goal.
That should have been game over, but Wigan pulled a goal back seven minutes later when Rodallega squeezed a shot past Simon Mignolet.
With Nicklas Bendtner's inability to hold the ball up, Wigan switched to a three-man defence and hunted for an equaliser. Bendtner, though, redeemed himself when he shrugged off Maynor Figueroa before delivering a low cross for Stephane Sessegnon to convert on 73 minutes.
David Vaughan's rasping fourth with 10 minutes to go put victory beyond any doubt. (© Daily Telegraph, London)