Away-day awakening inspired by Quinn's double

Blackburn Rovers 0 Sunderland 3
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The Independent Online

Berated by their manager for being a soft touch away from home, Sunderland eased their travel troubles against a Blackburn side who can do little right on their own turf.

Suffering badly from a lack of proficient goalscorers, Rovers have not won a Premiership game at Ewood Park since they thrashed West Ham 7-1 more than 10 weeks ago, a run of five games of which the last three have ended in defeat.

They were so poor in front of a near-30,000 crowd yesterday that their manager, Graeme Souness, felt compelled to send on ageing warhorse, Mark Hughes, and a half-fit Matt Jansen in a complete change of strike force at half-time after the expensive Italian Corrado Grabbi and his makeshift partner, Damien Duff, had proved totally inadequate.

Souness is hoping to raid the Italian market again to recruit the former Aston Villa striker Savo Milosevic from Parma, but he will have wished he had the veteran Niall Quinn to call on after the Irishman's two first-half goals put Sunderland in complete control.

Blackburn rallied in the second half and for a time made Sunderland's defence work to preserve their advantage, but the tactical rethink Souness hoped might put them back in the game was thrown into disarray when his defender Craig Short was sent off 20 minutes from the end after elbowing Kevin Kyle and they conceded a third goal in the last minute of normal time.

Sunderland, for whom the former Rangers midfielder Claudio Reyna gave an eye-catching performance, defended efficiently and did not pass and move like a side who had lost four consecutive away games.

When Quinn put them in front after 17 minutes, smashing the ball home at the far post after Reyna had driven the ball hard and low across the Blackburn penalty area, they were ending a barren sequence in Premiership away games that had stretched to six hours and 24 minutes without a goal.

After 32 minutes Quinn, who had scored the only goal when Blackburn lost at the Stadium of Light in September, left goalkeeper Brad Friedel hopelessly beaten with a clever back-header from Julio Arca's free kick.

Souness described Blackburn's first-half performance as "the worst 45 minutes since I have been at the club" and it might have looked worse still, Friedel's saves denying McCann, Quinn and Reyna, and Short diverting a Kevin Phillips chip against a post. Phillips hit an upright himself early in the second half.

Blackburn, for whom Duff brought one first-half save from Thomas Sorensen but missed two easier chances, did a little better when Duff moved to the left and Souness changed to three at the back in the second half. Jansen, who had been left on the bench following an ankle injury, gave them more of a cutting edge.

But the loss of Short handed the initiative back to Sunderland and a sweeping move involving McCann and former Blackburn wing-back Jason McAteer ended with Phillips's low cross setting up a tap-in for substitute Kevin Kilbane.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel 7; Short 4, Berg 5 (Hughes 6, h-t), Johansson 5, Neill 4 (Taylor 4, 66); Gillespie 6, Dunn 4, Flitcroft 4, Mahon 4; Grabbi 3 (Jansen 5, h-t), Duff 4. Substitutes not used: Ostenstad, Kelly (gk).

Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen 5; Haas 6, Thome 6, Williams 7, Gray 6; McAteer 6, Reyna 8, McCann 7, Arca 6 (Kilbane 5, 77); Phillips 7, Quinn 8 (Kyle 5, 68). Substitutes not used: Thirlwell, McCartney, Macho (gk).

Referee: C Wilkes (Gloucester) 6.

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