SHAMEFUL Sunderland suffered their heaviest ever Premier League defeat after an utterly embarrassing 8-0 rout at Southampton.
Gus Poyet’s side, who had boasted the joint second best defensive record in the top flight prior to the trip to St Mary’s, produced an astonishing display of defensive incompetence in front of more than 2,500 travelling fans on the south coast.
A comical own goal from Santiago Vergini gave Southampton an early lead, before more blundering at the back gifted Graziano Pelle a second.
Sunderland should have had a penalty - and seen Southampton reduced to 10 men - when Fraser Forster unceremoniously brought down Steven Fletcher.
But Jack Cork made it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time before Sunderland collapsed in frighteningly feeble fashion after the break.
A Liam Bridcutt own goal, was followed by strikes from Pelle, Dusan Tadic, Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane, as Sunderland equalled the biggest loss in the club’s history.
Poyet made the one expected change to his starting XI from the side which beat Stoke City a fortnight earlier, with Wes Brown taking the place of the injured Billy Jones.
Brown came into the back four alongside John O’Shea at centre-half, with Santiago Vergini moving to right-back.
There were spots on the bench for Danny Graham and Cabral - the latter involved in a Sunderland matchday squad for the first time since December.
Southampton boss Ronald Koeman made two changes, with Jack Cork and Shane Long taking the places of Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane.
Sunderland produced the game’s first effort in the fourth minute when Jordi Gomez’s free-kick on the left-hand side of the area was headed a couple of feet over the top by Connor Wickham.
But the Black Cats fell behind in the 12th minute in almost comical fashion after a spectacular own goal from Vergini.
Morgan Schneiderlin lumped the ball hopefully into the penalty area, where Vergini - under no pressure - attempted to clear, but ended up smashing it in the bottom corner of his own net.
Southampton doubled their advantage six minutes later after again profiting from some slapstick Sunderland defending.
Will Buckley’s pass hit the back of Seb Larsson and rolled into the path of Dusan Tadic, who played in Steven Davis down the left-hand side of the area.
Davis low ball across the face was tapped in at point-blank range by Graziano Pelle.
Sunderland went close to pulling one back in the 20th minute when Larsson’s free-kick from 25 yards curled over the wall, but was tipped away by Fraser Forster.
The Southampton keeper should have been dismissed - and Sunderland awarded a penalty - 10 minutes before the interval.
Lee Cattermole’s pinpoint through-ball sent Steven Fletcher clean through on goal and the Scotland international knocked past Forster before being clattered into by the stopper.
But referee Andre Marriner waved the appeals of what away the appeals of what looked to be a stonewall spot-kick.
Two minutes later, Southampton were 3-0 up after Tadic’s cross from the left found Cork at the back post, six yards out after he had ghosted into the box unmarked.
Cork’s half-volley looked to have been saved by Vito Mannone, but the Italian couldn’t hold it and it bobbled into the bottom corner.
Sunderland should have pulled a goal back immediately when Patrick van Aanholt’s dangerous low ball across the face was blocked, before Larsson diverted Gomez’s follow-up cross wide of the target.
HALF-TIME Southampton 3 Sunderland 0
Sunderland made a half-time change with Liam Bridcutt replacing Brown, with the former Brighton man going to right-back and Vergini partnering John O’Shea at centre-half.
Southampton went close three minutes after the restart, when Sunderland were indecisive to Long’s scooped cross from the right.
Pelle knocked it into the path of Davis, 18 yards out, who sent his half-volley just over the bar.
Vergini’s day didn’t get any better in the 51st minute after Larsson’s right-wing free-kick was knocked back towards the Argentine international by Fletcher at the far post.
But the unmarked Vergini sent his header handsomely over the top from eight yards.
Only a brilliant goal-line from van Aanholt denied Southampton a fourth in the 61st minute after the Saints were gifted possession midway inside the Sunderland half by a horrible crossfield pass from Connor Wickham.
Davis played in Long down the left-hand side of the area, who picked out Tadic with his pull-back, only for van Aanholt to clear on the line.
It was only a temporary reprieve for Sunderland, as Southampton added their fourth two minutes later.
Sunderland were cut to pieces by Ryan Bertrand down the left and he pulled it back to Pelle, just inside the area.
Pelle’s shot was well-saved by Mannone, but it richocheted off Bridcutt and into the net.
Saints hitman Pelle went close to a hat-trick in the 74th minute when substitute Victor Wanyama drove a cross-come-shot into the area, which was diverted over the top by the Italian 10 yards out.
Southampton’s advantage was extended to six four minutes later after more calamitous blundering at the back from Sunderland.
Mannone struck his clearance straight at Tadic, who knocked it into the empty net from 25 yards.
It got even worse for Sunderland with 11 minutes to go when Tadic squared it to Wanyama, just inside the area, who smashed the ball home with a shot that was straight at Mannone.
Southampton made it eight in the 86th minute when Tadic pulled the ball back to substitute Sadio Mane, who tucked it into the bottom corner.
It was almost nine in stoppage time when Mane shot from the edge of the area, but his effort was blocked by Mannone.
FULL-TIME Southampton 8 Sunderland 0
SOUTHAMPTON: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, S Davis (Mane 65), Cork, Schneiderlin, Long (Wanyama 65), Pelle (Mayuka 80), Tadic. Subs not used: K Davis, Yoshida, Gardos, Reed. Booked: Schneiderlin (50)
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Vergini, Brown (Bridcutt 46), O’Shea, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Larsson (Rodwell 60), Gomez (Johnson 60), Buckley, Wickham, Fletcher. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Mavrias, Graham, Cabral. Booked: Wickham (9), Cattermole (25), Bridcutt (82)
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