Sunderland 0-1 Watford: Hornets buzzing
Odion Ighalo’s 10th purpose on the season handed promoted Watford a third successive Barclays Premier League victory and plunged Sunderland deeper into relegation trouble.
The Nigerian’s fourth-minute strike proved enough to clinch each of the points in a 1-0 win at a wintry Stadium of Light as the guests launched an early blitz and after that defended their lead with tiny difficulty to claim their seventh top-flight win from the campaign.
Sam Allardyce’s guys at the least created a game of it just after a dreadful start out with substitute Jermain Defoe seeing a strike properly ruled out for offside and forcing a fine late save from goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, however the guests have been the improved side and were worthy winners.
Allardyce has built his new-look Sunderland team on defensive solidity and also the ploy has proved largely effective in recent weeks having a back three possessing provided Black Cats goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon welcome protection.
However, he had to rip his strategy up inside 19 minutes as Watford tore into Sunderland with relish, with Ighalo, Troy Deeney and Almen Abdi in rampant mood.
The visitors took the lead when full-back Allan Nyom combined with Abdi down the right for the latter to slide the ball in to Ighalo, whose sliding effort may well have clipped defender Sebastian Coates because it rolled past the stranded Pantilimon.
Had Billy Jones not been in the appropriate spot in the proper time five minutes later, Abdi might have created it 2-0 from Nathan Ake’s cross, and his side was desperately fortunate to escape additional mishap with 11 minutes on the clock.
Ighalo brilliantly tricked his way previous John O’Shea, generating his 400th Barclays Premier League appearance, only to find out Pantilimon block his initial effort and Coates his follow-up prior to Abdi’s strike was repelled and Jose Manuel Jurado rattled the post from the rebound.
Fabio Borini could have levelled after running on to Yann M’Vila’s 17th-minute pass, but shot inches wide on the far post.
Allardyce merely had to act and he did so with 19 minutes gone, replacing wing-back DeAndre Yedlin with midfielder Jack Rodwell and switching from 3-5-2 to 4-2-3-1.
The adjust at some point paid dividends because the Black Cats gradually forced their way into the game, though not ahead of Pantilimon had to palm away Etienne Capoue’s 26th-minute work.
Borini sent a half-volleyed try wide right after Gomes had needlessly palmed an M’Vila corner straight to his feet, but the keeper redeemed himself with a excellent reaction save just after M’Vila’s 44th-minute free-kick skidded off defender Miguel Britos’ head and sped towards his own objective.
The property side began the second half in much much better fashion than they had the initial with defender Craig Cathcart throwing himself into the path of Steven Fletcher’s shot and Gomes parrying a different from Rodwell in speedy succession.
Duncan Watmore sent a rasping drive just wide with 13 minutes remaining, but Defoe saw an 82nd-minute snap-shot brilliantly saved by Gomes after which failed to produce meaningful make contact with with Patrick van Aanholt’s cross in front of target two minutes later with Ighalo obtaining passed up three glorious opportunities.