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Wes Brown was sent off for the third time this season as Hull City beat Sunderland 2-0 on Steve Bruce’s return to the Stadium of Light.
Defender Brown was given his marching orders after only three minutes on Saturday for a professional foul on Shane Long after Phil Bardsley's poor pass had played the striker in. Long then scored his second goal in as many matches with a first-half header, and strike partner Nikica Jelavic opened his Hull account with a header of his own after the break as Bruce's side secured their first Barclays Premier League win of the year.
It was the first time Bruce had been back at Sunderland since being sacked in November 2011, and Hull's victory brought his former club back down to earth following their derby win over Newcastle United last weekend. Defeat for Sunderland was their first in five top-flight games and it was a miserable day for Brown, who was also sent off against Stoke City and Norwich City, although his red card against Mark Hughes' side was overturned on appeal.
Poyet named an unchanged side following last Saturday’s 3-0 success at Newcastle, with Liam Bridcutt making his home defeat at the expense of fit-again midfielder Lee Cattermole. Jake Livermore returned to the Hull starting line-up after being ineligible to face his parent club Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, with Robbie Brady dropping to the bench.
Sunderland came into the game brimming with confidence after their win at St James’ Park, but their positivity was punctured early on when Brown was dismissed. Bardsley was to blame as his sloppy pass set Long clear, and Brown upended the striker just outside the penalty area, prompting referee Mike Jones to reach for his red card.
Vito Mannone saved the resulting free-kick from Tom Huddlestone and Poyet reacted to Brown's dismissal by replacing forward Fabio Borini with debutant defender Santiago Vergini. That change failed to have the desired effect, though, as Hull capitalised on their numerical advantage when Long put them in front 15 minutes in.
Mannone was only able to palm away Huddlestone's corner and the alert Long nodded in from close range after Livermore had helped the ball on. Hull were in command and ex-Everton striker Jelavic was unfortunate not to open his account 10 minutes later when his header was clawed out by the agile Mannone, before Long's left-foot strike from outside the area hit a post.
Bruce's side knocked the ball around with confidence at the start of the second half, but they were almost caught out nine minutes after the break when Steve Harper kept out Ki Sung-Yueng's right-foot effort. Jelavic could have done better two minutes later when he was sent clear, but dragged his tame left-foot finish wide of the far post.
The Croatia forward was not to be denied after 63 minutes, though, when Maynor Figueroa's shot struck Vergini and looped into his path and he duly guided his header beyond Mannone.
The Sunderland goalkeeper denied Sone Aluko a goal on his return from injury when he palmed away the Nigerian forward's left-foot strike as Hull secured a comfortable win.
"It was a big result. We've played well of late but not picked up the points that you need."
"I think the big thing was that they're at home so they had to gamble a little bit. They decided to play Johnson off the big striker Altidore and it left things open in the wide areas which we exploited.
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet: "We've been very good in the last month-and-a-half. Previously to that there was always something happening - a mistake, a deflected shot, a sending-off or whatever and today we went back to those times. It's difficult to analyse as it was a difficult game for us after five minutes.
"It changed the game completely. We tried to reorganise the team and for a few moments it looked as though we were still in the game at 1-0. We started taking a few risks and of course the second goal killed the game. It's difficult to analyse. We were ready in a great position and a situation to play a good game of football and after five minutes everything changed."
Hull City manager Steve Bruce: "It helps your cause when you're playing against 10 men but you've still got to play and beat the people in front of you."
"We're four points above the bottom three, it's quite remarkable. Everybody's had good results at the bottom end.”
"It's an unbelievable season and all of us are scratching our heads. Usually by February, there's one or two adrift but this time there isn't.
"That's what we needed. Our home form has been terrific but always away from home, for a newly promoted club, it's always difficult to win on the road. We've won twice in the North East so let's hope we win somewhere else."
|22 Feb 2014||v Arsenal (A)|
|15 Mar 2014||v Crystal Palace (H)|
|22 Mar 2014||v Norwich (A)|
|26 Mar 2014||v Liverpool (A)|
|31 Mar 2014||v West Ham (H)|
|07 Apr 2014||v Spurs (A)|