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11 December 2012
• Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Referee: N. Swarbrick
• Attendance: 37723
J. McClean 3'
S. Fletcher 28'
S. Sessègnon 90'+
It's misery for Reading, however, and they will have to pick themselves up fast with Arsenal visiting the Madejski Stadium next. That's all for today, all. I've been Tim Poole and you've been a great audience. Sunderland 3-0 Reading, we hope you enjoyed.
It has still been a far from satisfactory season so far for the Black Cats, but the hosts are up to 15th after tonight's convincing win and repeat performances against those around them in the bottom half of the table will surely be enough to secure vital points in future.
Clinical in front of goal and never in danger at the back, Sunderland were deserved winners today. For the visitors, however, it may be time to take a good, hard look in the mirror. No clean sheet in five and no away win all season. Soon we may be hearing the words 'crisis, what crisis?'
And the referee blows his whistle. A commanding win for the home side here at the Stadium of Light. Martin O'Neill will be delighted with his side's reaction to entering the relegation zone. The right man for the job? It was only one game but based on today, a resounding yes.
90' + 4'
Assist Carlos Javier Cuéllar
90' + 4'
Goal Stéphane Sessegnon
GOAL! It's a complete case of game over now as Stephane Sessegnon caps a fine performance with a much deserved goal. 3-0 to Sunderland and it's a complete whitewash.
90' + 2'
Another stat attack: the visitors have had 15 shots, which is now more than the home side. But they have lacked the finishing touches to make the hosts pay. It's been a feisty defensive performance from Sunderland here, and they will take hope from that going into their next game against Man United.
Oh dear... a Reading player trips up in an attempt to regain possession. Perhaps their season so far summarised in one moment right there. Five minutes of injury time for them to salvage something from the game.
Sessegnon stopped by the referee for a foul on a Royals defender, but the forward could have been through on goal if not for a slightly harsh decision.
The clock is ticking and it is looking like a job very well done for the home side here at the Stadium of Light. This will be only their second home win all season, but it could rarely be more important.
The visitors appear to already be looking ahead to their next fixture. Sadly, though, it doesn't get any easier: Arsenal at home. No one said it was going to be easy... but did anyone say it would be this hard?
It is Sunderland v Federici here as Craig Gardner has a strike from the edge of the box saved by the Australian. Sessegnon was heavily involved in the build-up once more, but Federici was not having any of it and produced yet another first-class stop.
Stat attack: Sunderland have had 14 shots to the visitors' 12. The figures represent a generally open and attacking game. Fair play to two sides making a game of it and having a go when needed.
Let's take a moment to appreciate the visiting keeper's contribution today. Were it not for Federici, it could easily be four or five for Sunderland, here.
SAVE! Fantastic reflexes from Federici again. Sessegnon broke through and found McClean in acres of space. The 23-year-old midfielder took a touch and went for a cutely-placed shot into the bottom corner. Federici, however, was equal to the strike. It could have been game over.
And now a change for the hosts: Titus Bramble on for the injured Phil Bardsley. That caps a rough few days for Bardsley - he made a costly error that lead to a Chelsea goal the other day and has now been forced off after only coming on after half-time.
Yellow Card Steven Fletcher
Bardsley now down injured, while Fletcher is booked. Assuming Sunderland fans will now be eager for the final whistle as the only thing to fear from hereon in is a long-term injury to a key player...
Here's a squad number you don't see everyday: 44. Introducing newcomer Dominic Samuel for the visitors...
A standing ovation for Danny Rose as the Tottenham loanee is brought off at the 70 minute mark. The Stadium of Light has really taken to the full-back - and the full-back has reciprocated the love with some outstanding performances.
SAVE! Federici dives well this time to catch a thunderous Sessegnon strike. The forward has been another impressive performer for the home side tonight but could not outfox the visiting keeper on this occasion.
A definite period of Sunderland pressure ensuing at the moment. The visitors do look as though they can offer something sharp on the counter, however.
Speaking of the devil, the Scotsman breaks into the Reading penalty area and is brought down. Appeals for a penalty are made but just as quickly waved away by the referee.
Fletcher's aerial presence has been invaluable for the home side, as ever. His most poignant contribution was the goal but he adds so much more to any side he plays in. £14m almost seems a bargain with hindsight...
A rare second half chance for the hosts, however, as Rose whips another cross into the box from left to right but it is met with a swift clearance.
The visitors are enjoying a long spell of possession and it's now evident that the home side are all too content with sitting deep and protecting their lead with all 11 men if needed.
Would you believe it if I told you that Reading have now had more shots than Sunderland? Well you'd better: it's 12-10 in their favour. But, as ever, it is the scoreline that counts.
Another player down injured for the home side as James McClean pulls up, but is once again declared ready to continue.
Fifteenth place awaits for the hosts with this current scoreline. Reading, meanwhile, are still yet to taste victory on the road this season. It has been a long wait - only QPR's wait for an overall win has been longer.
Yellow Card Danny Rose
SAVE! Mignolet dives well to his right to keep out another Shorey curler. This time, an in-swinging shot was heading for the top right corner but the Frenchman proved equal to the strike. Another fine save from the shot stopper.
A corner is cleared for the visitors but they are not relenting and now have another free-kick in a very advanced position.
Noel Hunt fires just over for the visitors. Is this a sign of things to come?
And we are OFF! One change at the break: Adam Johnson has come off with a knock and Phil Bardsley comes on in his place; a defensive change it seems and it can't be faulted when your side needs to protect a 2-0 lead.
A few half-time stats for you all... possession has been evenly distributed at 50% for both sides, while Adrian Mariappa has received the only booking in what has so far been a firmly but cleanly contested encounter.
Reading absolutely have it all to do here. Not much more than that can be said, in truth. It may be early in the season, but the fight for survival looks very bleak for the visitors right now.
And it's half-time at the Stadium of Light. So far, so good for O'Neill's Black Cats; a fine performance has seen them dominate proceedings and anyone would think they were watching a top-six side...
Three minutes of injury time here but I'm sure both managers will want to get their sides in as quickly as possible. O'Neill will be keen to tell his players to keep things tight at the back, while McDermott will have a lot to talk about with his eleven.
Still no sign of Reading getting back into this. Could a battering be on the cards for the Royals? We've all seen it before... a side goes for broke to get back into a game and gets caught out at the back. Or Robin Van Persie scores a last minute free-kick once they've equalised. Less chance of that here, though, obviously.. though stranger things have happened.
Now Adam Johnson is down. Some Black Cats players are taking a battering today. But they won't mind so long as they get the three points - and if they don't sustain anything long-term, of course.
Worryingly for Sunderland fans, Danny Rose is down injured. But the full-back is all good to carry on. Has he been Sunderland's player of the season so far?
What now for Reading? Brian McDermott certainly has attacking options - but does he have enough to recover from a 2-0 lead? This is now their fifth straight game without a clean sheet and the table will make for daunting reading (pardon the pun) if things stay the same here.
Interestingly, Reading have edged possession so far by a smidgeon. But the shot count looks just rosy for Sunderland fans, while the scoreline is what matters - and that looks even better for the Mackems.
All the pressure, understandably, is now on Reading. Sunderland can afford to take a step back - they are fantastic value for their lead at the moment.
On a night when Sunderland's Northern Irish manager was seemingly under immense pressure, Sunderland have completely outplayed their opponents half an hour in. Credit to O'Neill himself as there is no coincidence in the fact that Danny Rose - his signing - set up Steven Fletcher - another of his signings - to double a lead created by a player O'Neill put great faith in from the off (McClean).
Assist Danny Rose
Goal Steven Fletcher
GOAL!!! Steven Fletcher proves his worth once more for Sunderland! Danny Rose whipped a cross in from the left and Fletcher made no mistake with an extremely accurate finish. What a signing the Scotsman has been.
Since the days of Steve Bruce, Sunderland have seemed to be on a downward spiral. Martin O'Neill's introduction as manager provided some much needed impetus at first, but the honeymoon period did not seem to last long. A win now, however, could give the Black Cats' season a serious boost.
Seven shots to two so far in Sunderland's favour. They are playing like the home side and Reading - with all due respect - are duly fulfilling the role of a newly promoted side struggling to find their feet.
How Sunderland fans will smile at things as they stand. And the Black Cats aren't happy with just a 1-0 lead, either, as Sessegnon fires an ambitious strike at goal. It floats harmlessly wide but is indicative of a new found cutting edge in Martin O'Neill's side.
Goal kick awarded to Sunderland after a Reading attack trickles out without causing any danger. But there's no denying the visitors are getting more into the game.
Reading loft a high free-kick into the box but it is headed clear without a problem and possession is once again won back with ease.
A rare flash of imagination from Reading as the Royals catch Sunderland off guard in their own half, but possession is quickly won back as Bardsley gets a challenge in and plays it back to the safety of Simon Mignolet's six-yard box.
The Sunderland midfielders are stringing a series of impressive passes together, while Steven Fletcher is showing the world what he is made of with some sensational movement off the ball. How Sunderland miss him when he isn't available, but he pulled through after an ankle injury today.
Yellow Card Adrian Mariappa
Martin O'Neill's men look calm and composed so far. And for all the doom and gloom, a win can lift them up three places into 15th. It's still early days though and Reading are a side known for their ability to punch above their weight in front of goal.
Nicky Shorey fires wide and Simon Mignolet breathes a sigh of relief after using up most of his oxygen directing the back four with loud instructions. A fine keeper Mignolet is - and never in danger of not being in command of his defence.
A free-kick in a dangerous position for Reading. Can the empire strike straight back for the Royals?
Sunderland continue to apply the pressure here as Adam Johnson comes close with a great strike. It seems the Mackems are looking to make up for a shortage of goals so far this season by getting as many on the board as they can early on!
Goal James McClean
GOAL! The Black Cats strike as early as it gets after a corner is headed out but James McClean finds the rebound and smashed a well-placed shot into the bottom corner. What a start for Sunderland!
The Sunderland fans are in good voice as we kick off at the Stadium of Light. Will they be in such high spirits come full-time?
Both sides are missing key players - Sunderland are without Lee Cattermole, while Pavel Pogrebnyak is out for the Royals. Meanwhile, even more worrying for fans on Wearside is speculation that manager O'Neill could lose his job if his troops lose tonight...
But Black Cats fans will argue that there will be no better opposition for their side than Reading at the moment as the Royals are a place below Sunderland in 19th and even a Reading win will not change that. Yet to win on their travels this season, Reading have not kept a clean sheet in four matches, conceding ten times during that period - including the four they shipped at home to Manchester United two weeks ago.
Ahead of today's game, only QPR have scored fewer Premier League goals than Sunderland this season. The Mackems have also won just once at the Stadium of Light in seven attempts and are without a win in four matches. This dire state of affairs has culminated in Martin O'Neill's men slipping into the relegation zone in 18th place.
I'm Tim Poole and I'll be guiding you through today's game - so if you can't access a good stream or a TV and you MUST know what's happening minute by minute, this is the place to be!
Greetings all and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE! play-by-play coverage of Sunderland v Reading - a crucial bottom of the table clash that could go a long way to deciding which direction either side will be headed in the near future.
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