Sunderland vs West Bromwich Albion. Sky Bet Championship.
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Report and free match highlights from the Sky Bet Championship match between Sunderland and West Brom at the Stadium of Light on Saturday | Dan Ballard and Daniel Neil's second-half goals were enough for Black Cats
Saturday 9 December 2023 16:31, UK
Sunderland responded to Tony Mowbray's sacking with a 2-1 victory over West Brom to end a three-game winless run.
Defender Dan Ballard broke the deadlock in the 69th minute before Dan Neil doubled Sunderland's lead and looked to have wrapped up the points six minutes from time.
West Brom hit back through substitute Brandon Thomas-Asante in the 86th minute but Sunderland held out and brought a three-game winless run to an end as Mike Dodds - who was put in caretaker charge after Mowbray's sacking on Monday - got off to the perfect start.
For Albion it was a second successive defeat after last week's loss at home to leaders Leicester.
Sunderland made a confident start and would have been a goal up inside 15 minutes had Jobe Bellingham's close-range rebound not been wrongly ruled out for onside.
Bellingham - starting up front for the Black Cats in the week his older brother Jude described him as a "thoroughbred striker" - was on hand to tap into an empty net after Alex Palmer could only parry Adil Aouchiche's strike. The assistant's flag was raised but replays showed the 18-year-old was clearly onside.
Undeterred, Sunderland remained on the front foot and had a strong penalty shout waved away when Patrick Roberts hit the deck after a weaving run from the right.
West Brom grew into the game and although they did not manage a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes, they finished the first period on top, despite the frustration of losing striker Josh Maja.
Making his first return to Sunderland since leaving the Black Cats four years ago and his first start of the season for the Baggies, Maja's afternoon was cut short after Ballard's heavy tackle 10 minutes before the interval.
Sunderland were the better team in the early stages of the second half and came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock 12 minutes after the restart.
After good build-up play from Roberts on the right, Aouchiche's strike from inside the box crashed back off the post before Jack Clarke's rebound was superbly saved by Palmer.
Dodds turned to his bench, introducing Alex Pritchard in place of Aouchiche, and the change worked a treat. It was substitute Pritchard who swung in the 70th minute free-kick for Ballard to head home.
Pritchard was again involved in the second goal, setting Neil away, with the midfielder keeping his cool and lifting the ball over Palmer.
Albion responded and two substitutes combined as Thomas-Asante headed in Pipa's cross from the left. Jeremy Sarmiento had a penalty claim waved away deep in stoppage time.
Sunderland caretaker Mike Dodds:
"I'm a perfectionist and I want to have complete control of the game, I didn't like elements of the first half where they had too much control of the ball, albeit without hurting us too much.
"I think they played through us and our shape a little too much. The second half I think is a Sunderland team regardless of who is in charge: youthful, on the front foot, turning the game into 1-v-1 both attacking and defending, being brave in and out of possession; the second half for me is a Sunderland team."
West Brom's Carlos Corberan:
"We didn't perform to the best level we have as a team. I know the quality of the players Sunderland have.
"After the mistake that led to the Sunderland goal that was disallowed, it created a lot of doubt in ourselves.
"From that moment, Sunderland attacked more and we defended more. We created problems for ourselves."