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Tame exit sums up decline as Leeds fail to settle old score with Sunderland

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Sunderlands Steven Fletcher and Leed's United's Gaetano Berardi (left)during the FA Cup, Third Round match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Sunderlands Steven Fletcher and Leed's United's Gaetano Berardi (left)during the FA Cup, Third Round match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland

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Sunderlands Patrick Van Aaholt (right) and Leed's United's Rodolph Austin during the FA Cup, Third Round match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Sunderlands Patrick Van Aaholt (right) and Leed's United's Rodolph Austin during the FA Cup, Third Round match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland

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Sunderlands Connor Wickham (front) and Leeds United's Dario Del Fabro during the FA Cup, Third Round match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Sunderlands Connor Wickham (front) and Leeds United's Dario Del Fabro during the FA Cup, Third Round match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland

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Sunderland's Steven Fletcher shoots during the FA Cup, Third Round match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Sunderland's Steven Fletcher shoots during the FA Cup, Third Round match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland

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Sunderlands Steven Fletcher and Leed's United's Gaetano Berardi (left)during the FA Cup, Third Round match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland

So much has changed for these clubs over the course of the last 42 years, but the scoreline remained the same.

The last time Sunderland beat Leeds United 1-0 in the FA Cup, it secured a famous victory and their last major trophy. This one felt routine.

Leeds are a pale shadow of the team they were then. Sunderland have improved, although they have not added another trophy to a dusty cabinet since that famous 1973 upset at Wembley.

Having waited for so long for a shot at revenge, Leeds' tame first-half performance was bewildering. It was only in the second half that this ignited as a cup tie, but even then, Sunderland had more than enough chances to have made their progress into the fourth round smoother.

Leeds had a couple of good moments after Patrick van Aanholt's wonderful strike had given the Black Cats a deserved lead at half-time. Liam Cooper hit the woodwork in stoppage-time with a header, but the Championship side did not do enough to deserve anything from this match, so all they have to look forward to between now and May is a relegation battle.

As for Sunderland, they will be looking over their shoulders, too, as they remain too close to the Premier League's bottom three, but they reached the final of the League Cup last year and the quarter-finals of this competition.

Manager Gus Poyet has no time for those who claim cups are a distraction.

"I love the Cup. I've always said it, I will always take it seriously" said Poyet. "It can give you special moments, semi-finals and finals. If you don't want to have a chance of that, don't bother. It's an opportunity, not a distraction

"We made changes, but we brought in big names. It was important we won at home, because our record over the last four or five months is embarrassing."

Sunderland had several chances in the first half and should have taken more of them.

Emanuele Giaccherini, making his first start of the season after a lengthy injury absence, was prominent. The Italy international was denied a goal by a good save from Marco Silvestri.

He should have marked his return to the team with an assist, too, but having done the hardwork to set Steven Fletcher up with a wonderful chance, the striker failed to hit the target from six yards.

Leeds' attacking threat was sporadic and largely ineffectual. Sunderland, though, threatened almost every time they went forward, Ricardo Alvarez's deflected shot hitting the bar before Casper Sloth cleared his header off the line.

When the goal came, it was a beauty. Left-back Van Aanholt ran on to a pass from Fletcher and, without breaking stride, drilled a perfectly-placed shot into the far bottom corner.

Leeds came out for the second half with far more purpose. Suddenly it was a proper cup tie, Mirco Antenucci sliding a clever through ball into the feet of Adryan, but his shot was saved by the long leg of Costel Pantilimon.

Pantilimon was needed again moments later, keeping Brian Montenegro's effort out at his near post.

Leeds thought they had won a penalty almost immediately when Seb Larsson brought down Charlie Taylor, who fell in the box, but the foul had started just outside it.

Sunderland wobbled, unable to move up a gear having spent the first half on cruise control, but they held firm and should have scored a second.

Fletcher's finishing was wayward, as was Connor Wickham, but the former was also denied a magnificent save from Silvestri.

Leeds had one last chance in stoppage-time, but Cooper's glancing header smacked against an upright. © Daily Telegraph, London.

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