Fletcher doubles up as Sunderland beat Crystal Palace

Jordi Gomez celebrates putting Sunderland 2-1 up
Jordi Gomez celebrates putting Sunderland 2-1 up

STEVEN FLETCHER’S double ended Sunderland’s Monday night hoodoo, as the Black Cats moved out of the Premier League relegation zone with a 3-1 win.

Despite being on the back foot for long periods at Crystal Palace, a gutsy Sunderland side stopped the rot from back-to-back defeats - which had seen them concede 10 goals in the process - to record only a second Premier League victory of the campaign.

After surviving a penalty shout within the opening 30 seconds, Sunderland took a first half lead when Fletcher headed home.

Palace equalised early in the second half when substitute Wes Brown sent the ball into his own net - the fourth own goal Sunderland had conceded in the space of 16 days.

But with 11 minutes to go, Jordi Gomez regained the advantage for the visitors when he stroked the ball into the bottom corner, before Palace were reduced to 10 men in the dying stages.

Sunderland made the game safe in stoppage time when Fletcher netted his fourth of the season to secure the Black Cats’ first win on a Monday since 2002.

The win came at a cost though, with left-back Patrick van Aanholt suffering a dislocated shoulder and Lee Cattermole earning a one-match ban for a fifth yellow card of the season.

Summer signing Costel Pantilimon made his Premier League debut in a Sunderland shirt after Gus Poyet opted to drop last year’s Player of the Season Vito Mannone, following the goalkeeper’s mistakes in the previous two games.

New boy Anthony Reveillere also made his Black Cats bow at right-back after the ex-France international was preferred to Wes Brown - a switch which saw Santiago Vergini partner John O’Shea at centre-half.

The debutants were two of four changes to the starting line-up by Poyet.

Connor Wickham was recalled to the side after being preferred to Adam Johnson, with the former Manchester City winger included among the substitutes.

And Jordi Gomez replaced Jack Rodwell in central midfield, with the £10million summer signing missing out through injury.

Palace defender Scott Dann returned from injury ahead of schedule in the only change for the Eagles.

Referee Phil Dowd handed Sunderland a huge let-off inside the opening 25 seconds when he failed to awarded the hosts what looked to be a clear-cut penalty.

Ex-Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell knocked it into the area and was brought down by Santiago Vergini, who failed to make any contact with the ball, but Dowd waved play on. Palace then proceeded to put pressure on the Black Cats with a direct approach in an attempt to make the most of the pace in their front three, yet Poyet’s side restricted any meaningful efforts from the hosts.

Sunderland had to wait until the 31st minute to create their first opportunity and it proved to be sufficient to open the scoring.

Patrick van Aanholt was played onside by Brede Hangeland down the left flank and the full-back’s cross found the head of Fletcher who cushioned a header into the bottom corner.

Moments later, Palace had another penalty appeal when Wilfried Zaha tangled with van Aanholt down the right-hand side of the area.

Dowd again waved play on, but van Aanholt dislocated his shoulder in the incident and was replaced by Brown, with Reveillere moving to left-back and Vergini to right-back.

Fletcher went close again five minutes before the interval when he turned slickly down the left-hand side of the area and fired in a powerful left-footed shot which Julian Speroni turned behind.

Speroni was forced into another save in first half stoppage time when Will Buckley pulled the ball back to Vergini, just inside the area, who hit a well-struck half-volley that was pushed away smartly by the keeper.

HALF-TIME Palace 0 Sunderland 1

Palace began the second half positively with Brown blocking Zaha’s shot behind within the first two minutes of the restart.

The hosts were rewarded in the 55th minute as Sunderland were hit by the curse of the own goal again.

Pantilimon produced a superb save to block Marouane Chamakh’s shot from point-blank range, before Campbell pounced on the rebound, back-heeled it into the six-yard box and it bounced off Brown and squeezed inside the near post.

Vergini was denied by Speroni again in the 61st minute after Palace failed to clear their lines from a corner and Brown headed the ball into the path of the Argentinem who hit a half-volley from 15 yards that was straight at the stopper.

Lee Cattermole was booked in the 74th minute for a foul on Chamakh - a fifth yellow card of the campaign for the midfielder who will now miss next Sunday’s visit of Everton.

Five minutes later, Sunderland regained the lead after the Palace defence was again caught napping.

Buckley squared the ball to Gomez on the edge of the area who stroked the ball elegantly with his left-foot into the far bottom corner.

Palace were reduced to 10 men with three minutes to go when captain Mile Jedinak was handed a second yellow card for a foul on Gomez.

In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Sunderland put the match to bed when substitute Liam Bridcutt robbed Jason Puncheon midway inside the Palace half and fed Fletcher down the right-hand side of the area.

With ice-cool composure, Fletcher lifted the ball into the far corner beyond Speroni with his right foot.

FULL-TIME Palace 1 Sunderland 3

CRYSTAL PALACE: Speroni, Kelly, Hangeland (Gayle 74), Dann, Ward, Jedinak, Ledley, Zaha, Bolasie, Chamakh (Puncheon 76), Campbell. Subs not used: Hennessey, Mariappa, Bannan, McArthur, Doyle. Booked: Jedinak (65). Sent off: Jedinak (87)

SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Reveillere, O’Shea, Vergini, van Aanholt (Brown 37), Cattermole, Larsson, Gomez, Buckley (Bridcutt 82), Wickham (Altidore 78), Fletcher. Subs not used: Johnson, Mavrias, Graham, Mannone. Booked: Buckley (63), Pantilimon (71), Cattermole (74)

Attendance: 23, 212