Gyan brace eases Bruce's derby pain
Sunderland 2 Stoke City 0
Asamoah Gyan proved there is life without Darren Bent for Sunderland but, more significantly, his team showed that there is life after the club's recent derby-day humiliation by Newcastle.
Gyan's two goals on his first Premier League start might not erase the painful memories of the 5-1 defeat at St James' Park, but manager Steve Bruce can take solace from the £13m striker's match-winning display.
It happened in controversial circumstances as Lady Luck smiled on Sunderland, who benefited from referee Martin Atkinson's failure to spot a goal-line handball by Lee Cattermole before Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross was sent off late on for two bookable offences.
Ultimately, though, the game was settled by Gyan. The Ghanaian's first strike was a fine bit of goal-poaching as he knocked the ball home from close range after Asmir Begovic failed to hold Nedum Onuoha's shot.
His second, in the 86th minute, suggested that the investment in his services will pay dividends as he thumped a low shot past Begovic after Robert Huth only half-cleared Kieran Richardson's cross.
Gyan's opener eased the tension but the nerves resurfaced when Steed Malbranque saw a 29th-minute penalty saved by Begovic after Jon Walters was penalised for tugging Gyan's shirt.
Bruce would have breathed a huge sigh of relief after the break when Cattermole twice thwarted Kenwyne Jones with goal-line clearances in quick succession, the first of which was clearly illegal.
"It was a game-changing decision and that is now six given against us in 11 games," Stoke manager Tony Pulis said. "Everyone will agree it is handball. If Cattermole gets sent off, you hope you score the penalty. If Shawcross didn't get sent off, it is a completely different game. It is disappointing."
Shawcross was sent off in the 82nd minute following two fouls in quick succession on Danny Welbeck, the first vindictive, the second innocuous.
"We were due a bit of luck and we deserved it," said Bruce. "We have repaired some damage but in some eyes we won't repair it at all. The Bent injury threw us into chaos but Gyan showed what a class act he is."