Sunderland 3 Hull City 0: Blackout for Tigers as lack of cutting edge tells
After Sunderland’s previous home match, a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal, the Black Cats’ manager spoke about gloomily spending many Saturday nights “in a darkened room” following his side’s far-from-illuminating start to 2016-17.
Fast-forward three weeks and Moyes was left to savour victory on an afternoon when the Stadium of Light went dark for 10 minutes with play temporarily suspended while Hull counterpart Mike Phelan was left metaphorically to draw the curtains.
A power cut early in the second half may have provided a bizarre talking point for supporters, but switching off concentration troubled Phelan rather more.
Intermittent lapses of defensive resolve were punished ruthlessly by Sunderland’s little-and-large striking combination of Jermaine Defoe and Victor Anichebe, who displayed the match-winning predatory poise to suggest that the Wearsiders might save their season.
At the other end, Hull, with only one fit striker in Dieumerci Mbokani, displayed a discernible lack of cutting edge despite some decent approach play – a deep concern when you play Sunderland and the likes of West Brom, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and West Ham are on the horizon.
With January not too far away, proceedings starkly exposed Hull’s desperate need for some attacking additions in the winter transfer window.
How Phelan could have done with a Defoe out there on an occasion when Sunderland’s main man helped himself to his 150th Premier League goal and showed just what the Tigers lack.
Asked whether £14m Defoe, who has scored seven of Sunderland’s 12 league goals this term, could prove the difference between them staying up at someone else’s expense, Phelan said: “That is a fair point. You pay for quality and they paid a lot of money for him. Sunderland invested in one or two players who can maybe give them an edge over a few of the teams down there, but they have suffered along the way.
“But on the back of their last result and this, they are now in a happier place.
“We are 12 games in and there are a lot of games to go. With this defeat, albeit against Sunderland who are below us, we still have 10 points on the board.
“Yes, it is disappointing, a little bit disturbing, but I still believe these players understand what it takes and, hopefully, we will learn lessons really quickly.
“The end product was what was missing. That is the difference at this level.”
Hull local Josh Tymon became the club’s youngest Premier League debutant at 17 years and 181 days and the Tigers looked the more assured at the outset at a venue that had yielded famous wins on their previous two visits.
The nerves were clearly palpable among the scarred home faithful – even accounting for the surprise away victory over Bournemouth the previous time out – and those seemed to extend to Black Cats’ panicky back-four, who were edgy and unconvincing all game.
Thankfully for them, they had an accomplished last line of defence behind them in Jordan Pickford, although Hull’s off-radar execution meant he did not have to over-exert himself in the first half.
Sam Clucas and Ryan Mason were off beam with efforts after neat build-up play, and Pickford also parried a decent strike from Clucas, but the two main developments arrived at the other end.
Hull were fortunate to escape a penalty when David Marshall hared out of goal and challenged Duncan Watmore – replays showing that the goalkeeper had clearly caught him.
It was left to Defoe to break the deadlock with just the sort of goal upon which he has forged his career. Watmore won a flick on and Defoe danced into the danger zone before unleashing a clinical low shot with little backlift that whistled past Marshall.
It helped provide Sunderland with just their second interval lead this season. They should have doubled their advantage moments into the second half with only a fine point-blank save from Marshall denying Watmore.
Then came the interlude when the lights went out before play eventually resumed, although Phelan and Hull probably wished that it had not.
After Mason missed a golden chance, Anichebe showed him how it was done when he converted Patrick van Aanholt’s cross on 62 minutes.
Pickford made a stunning parry from Robert Snodgrass’s bicycle kick before Sunderland’s day was confirmed when Anichebe’s dominant performance was crowned with a thunderous late third.
It was a lesson in finishing from the hosts, duly acknowledged by league debutant Tymon.
“If we don’t take our chances, then the other team will in the Premier League. I am gutted we could not get a result, but I could not be much prouder to have played for my home-town club in the Premier League,” he said.
“The gaffer said I did myself proud so, hopefully, I can kick on and get more games under my belt.”
Sunderland: Pickford; Jones, Kone, Djilobodji, van Aanholt; Denayer (O’Shea 83), Watmore, Ndong, McNair; (Love 88) Anichebe, Defoe. Unused substitutes: Mannone, Khazri, Manquillo, Januzaj, Gooch.
Hull City: Marshall; Elmohamady, Dawson, Davies, Tymon (Bowen 68); Livermore; Snodgrass, Henriksen, Clucas, Mason (Meyler 78); Mbokani. Unused substitutes: Jakupovic, Maguire, Huddlestone, Weir, Olley.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).