Sunderland make flying start

Bradford City 0 Sunderland 4
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The Independent Online
Sunderland at last began to justify the confidence of the pre-season pundits last night when they demolished the pretensions of the First Division's early leaders before the half-time oranges had even been cut. Peter Reid's team scored four times in the first 37 minutes and never looked in danger.

Having stalled on the starting grid, the Wearsiders began this match at full throttle and the smell of burning rubber began to waft across Valley Parade after only five minutes.

However, they owed their early lead to a schoolboy error by the City goalkeeper, Robert Zabica. Michael Gray's 20-yard shot flew at him fast but straight and at head height, yet he could only parry it over his head and the assistant referee signalled that it had crossed the line before Kevin Phillips made sure.

Sunderland should have doubled their advantage almost at once, but Martin Smith showed the rustiness of someone making his first start since January when he ballooned the chance over the bar.

Bradford had little answer to Sunderland's pace and urgency, and Kevin Ball rattled the crossbar with another long-range shot before Lionel Perez was troubled in the Sunderland goal, getting down smartly to smother at Edinho's feet after the Brazilian had made space in the box.

Comparisons with Brazil have been heard around Bradford almost as much as in neighbouring Barnsley thanks to the recent effectiveness of their close-passing style, but Sunderland quickly proceeded to demonstrate in six decisive minutes that this would be a night for English directness.

Phillips set up Lee Clark to increase the lead with a right foot drive on the half hour and three minutes later the roles were reversed for Phillips to make it three. Then Gray's penetrating 30-yard pass found Allan Johnston, who side-stepped Zabica to put the result beyond question.

Sunderland's rearguard looked as solid as their attack was incisive, the back four winning every hand of patience Bradford's slow build-ups dealt them. Perez, their French goalkeeper, showed great sangfroid when City resorted to high crosses.

Edinho's willingness to run at the defence seemed Bradford's best hope of a consolation goal, but Perez was equal to the one half-chance he created.

Bradford City (4-4-2): Zabica; Wilder, Youds, Dreyer, Jacobs; Lawrence, Pepper (Kulcsar, 67), Murray, Beagrie (Ramage, 67); Steiner (Blake, 59), Edinho.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Perez; Makin, Melville, Ord, Scott; Johnston, Clark (Bracewell, 88), Ball, Gray; Smith (Mullen, 82), Phillips. Substitute not used: Byrne.

Referee: M Fletcher (Smethwick).

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