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Thursday 26 April 2018

More gloom at the Stadium of Light

Wes Hoolahan (left) pulled the strings as Sunderland crumbled to another defeat
Wes Hoolahan (left) pulled the strings as Sunderland crumbled to another defeat

Norwich play-maker Wes Hoolahan turned in a master class as Sunderland head coach Dick Advocaat witnessed another horror show.

The Republic of Ireland international was the architect of a 3-1 victory at the Stadium of Light, his side's first on Wearside since 1997 against the opposition which had presented the Canaries with their last Barclays Premier League victory.

First-half goals from defenders Russell Martin and Steven Whittaker and a third after the break from Nathan Redmond left the home fans among a crowd of 41,379 singing: "Are you watching, Ellis Short?"

The Black Cats are desperately short of the quality they need to avoid yet another relegation scrap.

It was Hoolahan's invention - he played key roles in the second and third goals - which repeatedly tore the home side apart and helped to pave the way for Norwich's first win of the new season despite substitute Duncan Watmore's late consolation strike.

Advocaat shelved his retirement plans to accept the job of head coach after initially turning down chairman Short's offer of an extended stay, and he could have been forgiven for regretting his decision by the time the break arrived.

Having seen his team capitulate horribly in the first-half at Leicester last weekend, he looked on as they shouldered arms once again as a lack of cutting edge going forward and an inability to defend once again cost them dearly.

Norwich, who had also emerged from their opening day fixture empty-handed, were far sharper and exploited their hosts' frailty at the back in ruthless fashion, if initially with a touch of good fortune when keeper Costel Pantilimon could only push Robbie Brady's 26th-minute shot against the shins of Martin and ultimately into the back of the net.

Whittaker added to Advocaat's misery eight minutes before the break when he played a one-two with the excellent Hoolahan with full-back Patrick van Aanholt, who was at fault for the opening goal, once again marooned, and fired past the helpless Pantilimon.

Steven Fletcher headed just wide from Jeremain Lens' 41st-minute cross as Sunderland mustered a response of sorts, but the boos which greeted the half-time whistle told their own story.

Advocaat changed it at the break, sending on striker Danny Graham for midfielder Sebastian Larsson, and his side returned with greater purpose, Lens smashing a 47th-minute shot into the midriff of keeper John Ruddy, who had not previously had a save to make.

But the respite was short-lived and Redmond wrapped up the win with 33 minutes still to go when he exchanged passes with Hoolahan and slid a shot past the stranded Pantilimon.

Watmore produced an exciting late cameo, which included an 88th-minute goal on his Premier League debut, to give the home fans something to shout about, but it was all too little, too late.


"I was a little optimistic before the season started but now I'm lost for words oh I've got 1.... #shocking #safcvncfc" - Ex-Sunderland defender Michael Gray despairs with his old side.



Costel Pantilimon: 5 (Out of 10)

Billy Jones: 6

Patrick van Aanholt: 4

Younes Kaboul: 5

Sebastian Coates: 5

Lee Cattermole: 6

Sebastian Larsson: 6

Yann M'Vila: 6

Jeremain Lens: 7

Jermain Defoe: 6

Steven Fletcher: 6


Danny Graham: 6

Duncan Watmore: 7


John Ruddy: 6

Steven Whittaker: 7

Robbie Brady: 7

Russell Martin: 6

Sebastien Bassong: 6

Nathan Redmond: 7

Alex Tettey: 7

Graham Dorrans: 6

Jonny Howson: 7

Wes Hoolahan: 8

Cameron Jerome: 7


Bradley Johnson: 6

Lewis Grabban: 6

Gary O'Neil: 6


Wes Hoolahan was at the centre of all Norwich's best work, playing the pivotal role in both the second and third goals and causing the Sunderland defence problems all afternoon.


Hoolahan's delightful lay-off from Nathan Redmond's pass to allow the winger to slot past keeper Costel Pantilimon and make it 3-0.


Another video nasty for Dick Advocaat's collection. The veteran Dutchman was parachuted in for a nine-game survival mission last season and pulled it off to earn the offer of an extended stay which he initially rejected. He may wish he had stuck to his original decision.


Sunderland left-back Patrick van Aanholt had another day to forget as he was repeatedly caught out of position with Norwich targetting the space behind him, but remained on the field for the full 90 minutes.


Sunderland v Swansea (Premier League, Saturday August 22)

Norwich v Stoke (Premier League, Saturday August 22)

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