Sunderland gain vital win
Sunderland beat Bolton 3-1 to lift themselves out of the Premier League drop zone.
Last Updated: 29/12/07 9:08pm
Sunderland collected a vital three points to lift themselves out of the Premier League drop zone by beating Bolton 3-1 at the Stadium of Light.
First-half goals from classy Kieran Richardson and Kenwyne Jones saw the Black Cats storm to a 2-0 lead, before El-Hadji Diouf replied for Bolton just before half-time.
Sunderland then had to withstand tremendous pressure from Bolton through-out the second half, with Diouf having the best chance, but the Senegalese striker put his effort just wide.
Then in stoppage time as Bolton pushed forward, substitute Daryl Murphy secured all three points after being played through by a Jones header.
Roy Keane took something of a gamble on Richardson, throwing him into the starting line-up for the first time since August after more than four months out with a back problem.
However, his bravery was rewarded in fine style when, with just 13 minutes gone, the winger found space on the left to run on to Jones' inviting pass and smash a shot past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
The Trinidad & Tobago international may have earned an assist for carving out the opening for his team-mate, but he was not satisfied with that and finally ended his search for a goal at the ninth time of asking.
Richardson returned the favour with a well-placed near-post corner on 32 minutes and Jones did the rest with a bullet header to make it 2-0 and increase belief that three points were there for the taking.
Until that stage, Bolton had looked a shadow of the side which had won two of its previous four league games with star man Nicolas Anelka isolated and central defenders Danny Higginbotham and Paul McShane allowing him little time or space.
But with just four minutes of the first half remaining, Wanderers dragged themselves back into the game as indecision in the home penalty area cost the Black Cats dear.
Kevin Davies looked odds-on to convert Diouf's free-kick as it was allowed to travel across keeper Craig Gordon unhindered but, although the striker failed to get a touch, the ball crept inside the far post to reduce the deficit and further dent Sunderland's fragile confidence.
Keane replaced striker Michael Chopra, who had lined up on the right-hand side of midfield before the break, with Grant Leadbitter.
But it was from the other flank that his side's first chance of the second half came as Richardson ran on to Andy Cole's pass before unleashing a dipping drive which Jaaskelainen had to tip over.
Leadbitter proved his worth inside his own penalty area three minutes later after Ricardo Gardner and Anelka had combined to set up Diouf, the youngster getting in a vital challenge before the Senegal international could pull the trigger.
Veteran striker Cole briefly got the better of Andy O'Brien on 54 minutes, but could not get a shot in, and after Davies had scuffed an effort straight at Gordon, the former Manchester United front man made way for Murphy.
But it was Wanderers who were applying the pressure, and they went close on 61 minutes when, after Anelka had thumped a shot straight at Diouf, he reacted smartly to curl a right-footed effort just wide.
At times, the home side were camped inside their own penalty area and were forced to repel wave after wave of attacks.
However, they defended with an impressive resilience and got their reward when Murphy ran on to Jones' flick-on to finally kill Bolton off.
|Sunderland||Team Statistics||Bolton Wanderers|
|2||1st Half Goals||1|
|5||Shots on Target||2|
|3||Shots off Target||1|