Sunderland 1-0 Watford: Patrick van Aanholt strike lifts Black Cats off bottom
By Michael Hincks
Last Updated: 17/12/16 6:51pm
Sunderland moved off the bottom of the Premier League table after Patrick van Aanholt's second-half strike earned them a 1-0 victory over Watford.
The winner came just four minutes after the break, with Van Aanholt meeting Jermain Defoe's cross to score his third goal of the season.
With Hull and Swansea both losing, victory for Sunderland means they will not be bottom at Christmas, and they now sit just one point off safety in 18th.
Defeat for Watford leaves them in the bottom half of the table following their fourth straight loss on the road.
Sunderland started the match four points from safety having lost their previous two matches, while Victor Anichebe was welcomed back to the starting line-up after passing a late fitness test.
Meanwhile, Watford were targeting a return to the top half of the table, but knew history was against them having lost four of their last five at the Stadium of Light.
In an end-to-end opening 10 minutes it was Watford who came closest to breaking the deadlock, as Nordin Amrabat's volley from the edge of the box was kept out with an acrobatic save from Jordan Pickford.
Midway through the half, a free-kick near the corner flag was whipped in by Jose Holebas and there were no less than three Watford players queuing up to meet it at the back post.
And it was Miguel Britos who got the header away, only to see his seemingly goal-bound effort brush off team-mate Younes Kaboul and sail narrowly wide.
Sunderland's greatest opportunity in the first half came in the final minute, but Van Aanholt - who was a couple of yards offside - shot straight at Heurelho Gomes from an angle after Anichebe played him in.
Van Aanholt then struck what was ultimately the winner just four minutes after the break.
Adnan Januzaj started the move brilliantly, skipping beyond a challenge before picking out Defoe out wide, and his low cross was met by Van Aanholt, whose swivel and shot headed in off the inside of the post after Christian Kabasele slid in to block an initial attempt.
Sunderland were very much on top after taking the lead, and Anichebe was within inches of doubling their lead but his effort curled wide just after the hour-mark.
With 15 minutes left, Troy Deeney came close to finally getting his 100th goal for Watford, but the skipper headed wide from 12 yards out after Amrabat found him in acres of space.
Watford pressed for an equaliser, but Sunderland 'keeper Pickford got down well to keep out Daryl Janmaat and Odion Ighalo strikes.
Holebas showed little composure with Watford's final chance of the match, firing over a free-kick from 20 yards out.
Three points for Sunderland puts them one point and one place behind Crystal Palace, and David Moyes' side now head to Manchester United on Boxing Day.
Sunderland: Pickford (7), Love (6), Van Aanholt (8), Djilobodji (8), Kone (7), Denayer (7), Ndong (7), Borini (6), Januzaj (8), Anichebe (7), Defoe (7). Subs: O'Shea (6), Larsson (6), Khazri (6).
Watford: Gomes (6), Kaboul (7), Prodl (6), Britos (7), Holebas (6), Amrabat (6), Behrami (5), Capoue (6), Zuniga (5), Deeney (6), Ighalo (6). Subs: Kabasele (6), Success (5), Janmaat (6).
Man of the match: Adnan Januzaj (Sunderland)