For photos from the match, scroll to Photostream above left. Manager reaction below
An error from Simon Mignolet helped West Bromwich Albion climb into third place in the Barclays Premier League table as Sunderland's hopes of back-to-back victories were torn apart. The Sunderland goalkeeper gifted Shane Long the simplest of opportunities to fire into an empty net two minutes before the break when he allowed Chris Brunt's pass to squirm from his grasp. Steve Clarke's men were leading through Zoltan Gera's strike on the half-hour, and although the home side launched a fightback when Craig Gardner's 73rd-minute free-kick was deflected home, substitute Romelu Lukaku's late penalty looked to have sealed a fourth successive win for the first time in the Premier League.
Stephane Sessegnon reduced the deficit from close range with three minutes remaining, but after Lukaku had hit the post deep into injury time, fellow substitute Marc-Antoine Fortune made sure in injury time. West Brom arrived on Wearside brimming with confidence to meet a team which, having secured just its second Premier League win in 19 attempts, ran out determined to start climbing the table. Striker Steven Fletcher glanced a header wide from Phil Bardsley's right-wing cross and Sessegnon forced a less than convincing save from Myhill with a dipping volley after running on to Adam Johnson's flick.
However, West Brom midfielder Claudio Yacob passed up an opportunity to head home Chris Brunt's right-wing corner at the far post. Sessegnon called upon Myhill once again with 25 minutes gone when he met Sebastian Larsson's free-kick with a downward header. But any momentum Sunderland had established dissipated on the half-hour when the visitors took the lead in spectacular style. Johnson could only take the pace off McAuley's long ball out of defence and Gera took it in his stride, turned neatly and blasted a left-foot shot past Mignolet and inside the post. Sunderland might have been level within two minutes when the ball fell to John O'Shea inside the penalty area and he curled a right-foot effort just high and wide of the top corner.
Martin O'Neill's men were battling hard for a way back into the game and they went close again two minutes before half-time when Sessegnon's enterprising run ended with a deflected shot that Myhill fielded with little difficulty. However, their hopes were dealt a blow within seconds. Mignolet went down to collect Brunt's harmless through-ball as Long close him down, but fumbled it into the path of the striker, who was left to tap into an empty net.
O'Shea, who had been booked for an early foul on Long and then held his breath as the striker went down a second time, only to be booked for diving, failed to re-appear after the break as winger James McClean got the nod. However, the game might have been effectively over within four minutes of the restart when Long ran in on goal, only for Mignolet to redeem himself with a vital block. There was an uncomfortable moment for opposite number Myhill three minutes later when he managed to beat Johnson's long-range effort away after it reared up at him.
But for all Sunderland’s pressing, West Brom’s organisation and work-rate proved equal to the task, and their ability to counter at pace proved a potent weapon. They might have extended their lead with 61 minutes gone when Brunt was allowed time and space to drill the ball across the face of goal, where the sliding Long only just failed to make contact. Peter Odemwingie blasted inches wide after cutting inside from the right with 21 minutes remaining, and that proved to be his final contribution as he and Long made way for Fortune and Lukaku seconds later.
Sunderland gave themselves hope when Gardner's 73rd-minute free-kick clipped Fortune in the defensive wall and flew past the helpless Myhill, but Johnson's trip on Liam Ridgewell handed Lukaku an 81st-minute chance from the penalty spot and he took it with aplomb. Sessegnon pulled a second goal back from close range after Myhill had parried Fletcher's 87th-minute header, but after Lukaku had hit the post, Fortune ended their hopes with a neat finish in the fifth minute of injury time.
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill: "There's a lot to take out of the match. We have been beaten, but we look as if we can maybe get a goal again now, which is very encouraging. We have a big game on Tuesday night and we will try to get ourselves prepared for that.
"Simon [Mignolet] has been fantastic for us. He is entitled to something like that [error] now and again. It's absolutely and utterly out of character. It just slipped out. He has been terrific for us."
West Brom manager, Steve Clarke: "All I know is up until now, we have done very well. We have had a lot of plaudits and the players deserve it because so far, we have been a really good team. But you don't get carried away in the Premier League. We are still this side of Christmas, there are a lot of games to be played, a lot of points to be fought for. Our focus is on Wednesday night, that's as far ahead as we look."
"I don't dream too much, I'm a realist. I knew the squad of players I was taking over was a good squad, I knew it was a squad comfortable in the Premier League. They had finished mid-table and mid-table with 47 points both seasons. We knew we had added some good players to the squad, and we were hopeful that we could have a good season. So far, we have done okay."
|27 Nov 2012||v QPR (H)|
|02 Dec 2012||v Norwich (A)|
|08 Dec 2012||v Chelsea (H)|
|11 Dec 2012||v Reading (H)|
|15 Dec 2012||v Man Utd (A)|
|22 Dec 2012||v Southampton (A)|