O'Neill magic foils Swansea pass masters

Sunderland 2 Swansea city 0: Sessègnon and Gardner keep Sunderland firing much to the disbelief of a brave Welsh team

The Stadium of Light

Tactical genius or lucky you know what. It was a debate to be had after Sunderland ground out another victory under Martin O'Neill against one of the bravest newly promoted sides to step into the Premier League. No Blackpool this Swansea lot, who were left scratching their heads as they took the applause from the one thousand or so supporters who believe in what they are doing.

It did not bring victory, or even a goal, on a bitterly cold North-east afternoon. That felt a bit harsh, but against that Sunderland executed a gameplan pretty much according to their manager's instruction.

Six wins in the nine games since he took over a squad shorn of confidence is proof enough that there is undoubted method in the revival.

Swansea delight in having the ball and so Sunderland let them have it. Over-simplification? Perhaps. At times they sat deep, at times they simply couldn't get it.

A triumvirate of diminutive Swansea players – Nathan Dyer, Joe Allen and Leon Britton – fizzed the ball around, creating troublesome angles that make it difficult to stop. Their only real deflation came in the two exquisite strikes that gave Sunderland victory.

Stéphane Sessègnon flashes between naivety and brilliance. Two minutes after his original strike partner Nikolas Bendtner had gone off with a nasty-looking eye injury that will require further medical assessment today, he scored a superb first. The link-up play with James McClean was similarly impressive, taking a pass from the Irish winger, giving it back to him and having the favour once more returned before curling a fine, right-foot shot beyond Michel Vorm.

An away side could have gone long at that point, or retreated into their shells. Swansea kept passing. Danny Graham headed over, Gylfi Sigurdsson twice went close from distance and then Graham shot over again. The reaction of the Sunderland support – fairly unsettled – was telling, but by the 75th minute, their team still led. A minute later Sessègnon headed over from McClean's cross and five minutes from time, they had landed a killer sucker punch. Sessègnon squared the ball to Craig Gardner, who from 30 yards struck a rising shot over the head of Vorm.

"There is hurt and disbelief we didn't get something," said Brendan Rodgers. "I thought the scoreline was very very harsh. In terms of the result, it was disappointing, but the performance level was so high. I thought we were fantastic today. We created chances but the final touch and final ball let us down a bit."

Sunderland sneaked into the top 10 with their victory. O'Neill has 16 points from a possible 24 since taking over. "I'm delighted we're in the position we are," said O'Neill. "The points on the board are essential, just to keep a bit of momentum going and keep the players' self belief strong."

Sunderland (4-4-2): Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea, Brown, Richardson; Larsson (Elmohamady, 89), Cattermole, Vaughan (Gardner, 78), McClean; Bendtner (Wickham, 12), Sessègnon .

Swansea (4-1-4-1): Vorm; Angel, Caulker, Williams, Taylor; Allen; Dyer, Britton (Routledge, 78), Sigurdsson (McEachran 67), Sinclair; Graham.

Referee: Chris Foy

Man of the match: Dyer (Swansea)

Match rating: 6/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform