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Black Cats purring again

TUSSLE: Sunderland's Connor Wickham, left, tries to catch up with the Eagles' Wilfried Zaha (PA)

AFTER SHIPPING 10 goals in their last two games, Sunderland managed to stem the bleeding as they beat Crystal Palace convincingly 3-1.

Gus Poyet’s most notable change was picking Costel Pantilimon in goal in place of Vito Mannone.

The game could have been different, as Palace should have had a penalty in the opening minute when Santiago Vergini brought Fraizer Campbell down. However the referee ignored Palace’s appeals. Once again the Eagles did not get the rub of the green.

Just after the half-hour mark, Patrick Van Aanholt put a delightful cross into the Palace box, which was met by a Stephen Fletcher header that wrong-footed Speroni and crept into the near post. Sunderland’s opener was against the run of play, as Palace had been bossing possession.

Minutes later, Van Aanholt had to be replaced by Wes Brown due to injury after he appeared to pull Wilfred Zaha on the edge of the Sunderland box. The referee could have easily awarded a spot-kick to Palace.

Six minutes before the break Fletcher nearly doubled Sunderland’s lead as he turned neatly outside the Palace box, but his shot was saved by Speroni.

In added time of the first half, Will Buckly sent a cross in, which was met by a shot by Vergini, however Speroni came to the rescue yet again.

Just before the hour mark, Palace drew level thanks to a lucky own goal. Yannick Bolasie fed a short corner to Zaha who cut inside the box and dinked the ball to the back post, leading to a Campbell shot being saved by Pantilimon. Zaha was alert enough to back heel the rebound into the box, where it ricocheted off Brown into the net.

Palace deserved that bit of luck as they came out with intent and purpose in the second half.

Speroni then had to make a smart save from Jordi Gomez, while soon after at the other end, the lively Zaha dispatched a teasing cross into the Sunderland box but Pantilimon parried it to safety.

In the 79th minute Will Buckley picked up the ball on the right hand side and played it to Jordi Gomez, who did not break his stride as he hit a sweet shot with his left foot that nestled in the bottom left of Speroni’s goal to nudge Sunderland ahead.

Palace’s woes were compounded just before full time when Skipper Mile Jedinak was shown a second yellow and red for a foul on Gomez.

In added time, second half substitute Jason Puncheon had his pocket picked by Liam Bridcutt, who passed the ball to Fletcher. The Scotsman calmly slotted the ball past Speroni to put the result beyond doubt.

It was a fine win for Sunderland and the performance was much better than their kamikaze defending in their last two games.

Poyet will be a relieved man. It was also their first away win of the season.

Palace boss Neil Warnock was left ruing what might have been.

He is going to have to pick his team up quickly as their next two games are against Manchester United and Liverpool, either side of the next international break.

Warnock said: “In the last couple of weeks we have had major decisions go against us. They should have been simple decisions. The Premier League is meant to be the best league in the world.”

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