Sunderland made an emphatic return to form with a 3-0 win over an out-of-sorts West Ham on Saturday at the Stadium of Light. Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter
Sebastian Larsson, Adam Johnson and James McClean were all on target in a display which would warm the cockles of even the most critical of home supporters on a chilly afternoon in the north east.
Martin O'Neill's mounting injury list saw midfielders Craig Gardner and Jack Colback both deployed as stand-in fullbacks, although the 60-year-old was boosted by John O'Shea and Stephane Sessegnon's inclusion in the starting XI after they overcame fitness concerns.
Carlton Cole continued in attack for the visitors despite reports suggesting he is surplus to requirements at the club, with namesake Joe also retaining his place in the side, while Winston Reid and Matt Jarvis both returned to the lineup.
Neither Black Cats new boy Alfred N'Diaye or Hammers loan signing Marouane Chamakh were handed full debuts at the Stadium of Light, with both having to settle for place amongst the substitutes.
The lively Sessegnon crafted the first opening of the game, turning James Collins inside out before picking out Johnson in the box. The ex-Manchester City man's effort was blocked, but David Vaughan was on hand to pick up the rebound, his strike bouncing just wide of the post.
Sunderland's early pressure continued, with Reid twice forced into crucial blocks against Steven Fletcher and then James McClean. However, the Black Cats soon made it count in a spectacular way.
The ball bobbled loose on the edge of the West Ham area, with Larsson's touch greeted with cries of 'shoot!' from the home crowd. The Swede obliged, firing a rocket into the top-left hand corner to give his side a deserved lead.
A West Ham resurgence was not forthcoming as the hosts continued to surge forward, led by the ever-impressive Sessegnon.
In midfield, the Hammers offered little to no resistance as Vaughan and Larsson dominated, while it was only the rallying display of Reid which prevented the visitors from going in even further behind as the half drew to a close.
If Sunderland felt aggrieved to only be a goal ahead at the break, it soon made amends in the second 45. The hosts broke through Sessegnon following a West Ham free kick, and he quickly found McClean in acres of space on the opposite flank.
The young winger may not have been able to beat Jussi Jaaskelainen, but Johnson made no mistake, capitalizing on some shambolic defending from the Hammers to tap home and double the lead.
McClean's chance would come, however. Sessegnon again jinked through the West Ham defense, mocking Dan Potts and then James Tomkins with a series of pull backs, only for his final touch to evade him, which in turn allowed the Irishman to fire home from an acute angle.
There was a debut for Chamakh for the east Londoners, yet the on-loan Arsenal man seemed unable to inspire himself, never mind a late consolation for his new side. The same could not be said of N'Diaye, whose promising late cameo hinted at the slowly changing fortunes on Wearside.
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