Sunderland vs Burnley match report: Classy Adam Johnson has Black Cats purring at last

Sunderland 2 Burnley 0: Connor Wickham and Jermain Defoe strike Sunderland to victory

A turning point was sought, a turning point was found, and suddenly Sunderland look a team heading in a different direction. Compact, controlled and creative, Gus Poyet’s players won for only the second time at home in the league this season and Tuesday’s FA Cup replay at Fulham, coupled with home games to come against QPR, West Brom and Aston Villa, offer the possibility of a resurgence for the Wearsiders in the second half of the season.

After Connor Wickham had given Sunderland a 20th-minute lead with a header, Jermain Defoe supplied his first goal since arriving from Toronto. A souring atmosphere lifted.

“Important,” said Poyet, “we needed it. This has to be the turning point. But the message is: ‘We are not OK’. I don’t want us getting in a comfort zone.”

Poyet described Sunderland’s first half as the “perfect” response to the downbeat mood around the club and it was enough to see off Burnley. The visitors had come back from  2-0 down at Manchester City a month ago but rarely suggested they could do the same here.

 

Danny Ings, subject of so much midweek transfer gossip, was a peripheral presence and was taken off after an hour.

“It affected him,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said of Ings and the speculation. “He is human. It was too much this week and I was borderline not going to play him.”

Dyche then reiterated that Ings stays. The other good news for Burnley was that the three clubs below them lost; next Sunday’s visit of West Brom to Turf Moor assumes real significance.

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Connor Wickham heads in his first goal

Dyche named the same  claret starting XI for the ninth consecutive league game, but he said the performance lacked the “edge and clarity” expected. Several half-chances came, however, and had Ashley Barnes placed his six-yard header a couple of feet the other way at 0-0, the afternoon might have been transformed.

But two minutes later a move featuring Defoe, Seb Larsson and Anthony Reveillere led to Wickham nodding in.

Sunderland settled, yet prior to Defoe’s 34th-minute second, George Boyd snatched at a shot in the box and allowed Costel Pantilimon to save. It was the impressive Adam Johnson who initiated the clinching goal. From Johnson the ball pinged to Jordi Gomez and Patrick Van Aanholt, and Defoe had a tap-in. Poyet had asked for crosses and two brought the goals.

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John O'Shea celebrates with Connor Wickham after the latter scores the opener

That move was emblematic of Sunderland’s first-half play, which was swift and slick. The switch from three to four at the back worked – “back to basics,” said a satisfied Poyet.

Line-ups:

Sunderland: (4-1-3-2): Pantilimon; Reveillere, Vergini, O’Shea, Van Aanholt; Bridcutt; Larsson, Gomez,  Johnson (Alvarez, 86); Wickham (Graham, 75) Defoe (Fletcher, 75)

Burnley: (4-4-2): Heaton; Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Mee; Boyd (Wallace, 61) Marney, Jones, Arfield; Barnes (Vokes, 76) Ings (Jutkiewicz, 61)

Referee: Lee Mason

Man of the match: Johnson (Sunderland)

Match rating: 6/10

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