Redemption for Steve Bruce may be pushing it, but to leave the Stadium of Light victorious on his first visit since he suffered vitriolic abuse as the manger of Sunderland, as he did yesterday, put a spring in his step. “The last time I left here I needed a police escort!” he (half) joked.
The level of comfort in a game that was far bigger than its build up suggested, did not hurt. Hull were never troubled following the fourth-minute sending off of Wes Brown. Calamity and Sunderland have been bedfellows for much of the current campaign.
Brown’s dismissal was due in no small part to the inaccuracy of a team-mate. Phil Bardsley’s woeful attempted pass back to a team-mate, from the halfway line instead found Shane Long, who drove towards the Sunderland goal. Brown, cutting in on the angle, clattered into the Hull forward. That he managed to do so just outside the penalty area was the only saving grace. Brown was rightly sent off – his third red card of the season, one of which was rescinded on appeal – and Tom Huddlestone could do no more than clip a low shot from the free-kick that Vito Mannone saved, low to his left.
The lead for Hull felt inevitable, such was their control, and it arrived in the 16th minute. Jozy Altidore got in the way of his own goalkeeper from a Huddlestone corner and cleared only as far as Jake Livermore. He clipped the ball goalwards and the alert Long directed a header home from around four yards.
It was a Long afternoon for the home side. By the half-hour mark he had been allowed to turn in an acre of space and smash a 25-yard shot that cracked off the near post of Mannone’s goal. Just past the hour came Nikica Jelavic’s first Premier League goal for 11 months when he powered a fine header into the Sunderland goal.
“A lot of water has gone under the bridge since I was last here,” said Bruce. “It is no sweeter than winning anywhere. It was the manner that pleased me. It was so comfortable it was frightening. We are four points off the bottom three but we’re 10th, it’s a remarkable season. I have said all along we have to win 10 games. We have won seven.”
The Sunderland manager Gus Poyet added: “After three minutes if became really difficult. I don’t like games with what I call accidents. Playing 85 minutes with one less is even more difficult. We can erase this and keep believing.”
For Adam Johnson, watched by the England manager Roy Hodgson, it was a day when there was not a chance to shine.
Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea, Alonso; Bridcutt (Wickham, 76); Johnson, Ki (Gardner, 70), Colback, Borini (Vergini, 12); Altidore.
Hull City (4-4-2): Harper; Rosenior (Koren, 46), Davies, McShane, Figueroa; Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler; Jelavic (Aluko, 78), Long (Brady, 89).
Referee: Mike Jones.
Man of the match: Long (Hull)
Match rating: 8/10