So where now for Roy Keane and Sunderland? Unfortunately for them, to Old Trafford next Saturday. They will not make the trip in the best of spirits after this tame capitulation, their fifth defeat in their last six Premier League games.
It was Keane's 100th match as Sunderland's manager and it could hardly have been more excruciating for the old Red Devil to endure. They took the lead in the 12th minute, courtesy of Djibril Cisse, but played like a team lost thereafter. Goals by Matt Taylor and Gary Cahill and a brace by Johan Elmander inflicted the second heaviest home defeat of Keane's 25-month tenure at the Stadium of Light (after a 4-0 beating administered by Manchester United last season) as Bolton added serious momentum to their impressive mid-season revival with their fourth win in five games.
That it was not exactly a hard-earned victory for Gary Megson's side had the locals voicing their disapproval long before the end of the game. There were boos at half-time and again at the final whistle, though there were chants of support for Keane from the Sunderland fans when he stood, arms-folded at the touchline, with the gleeful Bolton supporters chiding: "You're getting sacked in the morning."
And yet it had all started so promisingly for Sunderland, with Kieran Richardson and Steed Malbranque combining on the right to tee up Cisse with the opportunity he converted with a fine side-footed finish. Thereafter, though, the Black Cats went into nap mode. Worse than that; their reshuffled defence – with record signing Craig Gordon back in goal from the treatment table and Anton Ferdinand demoted to bench duty – went into meltdown.
With 18 minutes on the clock, Gretar Steinsson hoisted a hopeful ball into the heart of the home box and Taylor rose above Pascal Chimbonda to send a header looping over the stretching Gordon. It was his fourth goal of the season, all of which have come away from home. Three minutes later Danny Collins failed to head clear an Andy O'Brien free-kick and Cahill rifled the loose ball past Gordon from 15 yards. It might have been different had Kenwyne Jones not been penalised for pushing in a move that led to Cisse netting on the half hour, but as it was Bolton were 3-1 up by the 39th minute.
It was a gift of a goal, Collins' inability to trap a long ball from Cahill leaving Elmander with only Gordon to beat, which he duly did with a right-footed drive. The Swede had his second 10 minutes into the second half, burying another drive after Dean Whitehead, the Black Cats' captain, had been caught out by Kevin Nolan.
It would have been worse for Keane and for Sunderland had Elamander not showed them the mercy of fluffing two more clear chances.
Referee: C Foy
Man of the match: Nolan
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content