Goals from Larsson, Bramble, Gardner and Bendtner ease the pressure on Wearside as the Black Cats coast to victory over lacklustre Potters at the Stadium of Light
The Black Cats started the game the livelier of the sides and went ahead in the fifth minute through Bramble after the visitors had failed to clear their lines from a Larsson corner.
Steve Bruce’s team had the early momentum and could have doubled their lead had it not been for Ryan Shawcross, whose last ditch tackle prevented Craig Gardner from shooting at goal when it appeared he was clean through.
This rest-bite for Stoke lasted only minutes as Sunderland got their second goal when Bendtner latched onto Larsson’s pinpoint cross and looped his header over Asmir Begovic into the net.
The Potters began to find their feet as the game settled down as they troubled the Black Cats defence with long balls into box and through Rory Delap’s throw-ins which slightly unnerved keeper Simon Mignolet.
Just when it looked as though Tony Pulis’ side had quelled Sunderland’s goal-scoring momentum, a good move by the Black Cats resulted in a third goal, this time Gardner found the net as his deflected shot looped over Begovic to send the Stadium of Light into raptures.
Stoke tried to force their way back into the game towards the end of the half but wasted good opportunities from set-pieces as the Sunderland defence became accustomed to the robust style of play, with Wes Brown in particular dominating against Peter Crouch.
Both sides had late chances in the half to add to the scoring with Cameron Jerome coming the closest as he missed his header from six yards as he failed to connect properly with Jon Walters’ cross and his follow up volley was well blocked by Bramble.
David Vaughan also tested the hands of Begovic before the half ended but the former Portsmouth man was equal to it.
The second half started well for the visitors as they put some early pressure on the Black Cats defence but were unable to find a way through with Crouch coming close as he beat John O’Shea at the back post but was unable to glance his header goalwards.
Sunderland then began to take control of possession in the midfield with some slick passing moves and got their fourth goal from a Larsson free kick which curled into the bottom corner of Begovic’s net following a foul on Sessegnon on the edge of the area.
The Black Cats seemed content with their four-goal cushion as they eased off the Potters but were still trying to catch the visitors on the break, and Sessegnon nearly took advantage of such a play as he linked up with Bendtner, but his 25-yard shot was deflected just wide of the post.
Crouch summed up a miserable afternoon for him and his team when he chested the ball down away from the attentions of Brown for once but the England man scuffed his shot straight into the arms of Mignolet.
Sunderland tried to end the game in style as Bendtner came close to adding a fifth for the hosts but could not beat Begovic as the Black Cats recorded their first win of the season in style and the Potters suffered a hangover from their exploits in the Europa League.