DJIBRIL Cissé is once again the headline act as his petulant actions contributed to another disappointing defeat for Queens Park Rangers.
The French forward was cheered from the field by the Sunderland supporters as the former Mackem succumbed once more to the red mist – flying wildly into striker Fraizer Campbell.
It will remain but a footnote to the occasion and the season at large as naive defending helped compound the fact that they failed to take midweek positivity to the Stadium of Light.
Nicklas Bendnter opened the scoring when left unmarked in the heart of the area, before Cissé’s flashpoint allowed Sunderland to extend their lead still further.
James McClean was given the freedom of Sunderland to net a deflected effort, before more defensive shortcomings allowed Stephane Sessegnon to stroke home unmarked.
There was a consolation as Taye Taiwo curled a sublime free-kick home for the visiting side, but it was scant consolation for QPR who now face the prospect of Arsenal and Manchester United.
Mark Hughes made two changes from the sublime come back against Liverpool. Joey Barton was dropped and Armand Traoré (hamstring) was injured, with Jamie Mackie and Taye Taiwo starting in their stead.
Paddy Kenny stood behind a back four of Luke Young, Nedum Onouha, Anton Ferdinand and the aforementioned Taiwo. Mackie, Shaun Derry, Samba Diakité and Adel Taarabt made up the midfield quartet while Djibril Cissé once again partnered Bobby Zamora.
Sunderland made three changes from the team that were defeated at Blackburn Rovers. John O’Shea, Jack Colback and Stephane Sessegnon came in for Phil Bardsley, Sebastian Larsson and Fraizer Campbell.
Simon Mignolet started behind a four of O’Shea, Sotiris Kyrgiakos, Michael Turner and Wayne Bridge. The midfield four comprised of Craig Gardner, David Vaughan, Colback and James McClean with Sessegnon playing off Nicklas Bendtner in attack.
KICK OFF: SUNDERLAND v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Positivity was in the air as Queens Park Rangers headed north in greater spirits and hopeful of another inspiring performance akin to that which saw them past Liverpool during the week. A stunning comeback marked a turn in fortunes for QPR which they hoped to transfer into the Stadium of Light.
As the ground filled up there was an air of hope drifting across the hearty travelling support, making the long trip north to watch their side. It was Sunderland however that started the brighter of the two sides, looking to get their own form back on track following a defeat to Blackburn Rovers.
The home yard looked a yard quicker than their visiting counterparts, the energy of Jack Colback in the middle of the park and the boost of Stephane Sessegnon’s return saw Sunderland to by far the brighter start.
James McClean was at his enterprising best down the left hand side and it was his set piece that carved out the opening opportunity of the half. Michael Turner’s flicked effort had to be cleared away from danger by Luke Young – ever alert on the far post to deny Sunderland an opener.
Sessegnon was looking sprightly once more – as he was at Loftus Road – and turned the QPR defence inside out before seeing Colback teed up. His resultant effort was blocked ably by Taiwo, but nevertheless the Mackems were posing a distinct threat as Rangers were viewing Wednesday as a distant memory.
Sunderland looked predominantly for the aerial threat of Nicklas Bendtner and the industrious wing work of McClean as their solitary outlets, but it was proving effective for the home side who continued to control the early stages of the fixture.
The aforementioned McClean beat Young in the air before the ball once again fell for Colback. The midfielder struck a powerful effort which skimmed off the base of the right hand upright – helping underline the danger that the home side continued to pose.
Rangers in riposte were looking a tad one dimensional in their approach, searching for Bobby Zamora in the air and any potential flick-ons for Cissé to feed from – Sunderland will know all to well the danger that the French forward possesses on the break.
It took quarter of an hour for the visiting side to create their first chance. Young’s good work down the right saw his resultant cross headed wide by Jamie Mackie – the forward unable to repeat his midweek heroics in this instance, but certainly a desired improvement from QPR.
Cissé was starting to display his potential once more working some space before firing a deflected effort into the arms of the grateful Mignolet – a ‘keeper that was a virtual spectator in the early offing in a fixture that certainly would not keep the neutral enthralled.
Smart work from Craig Gardner down the right earned some space for Sessegnon, but the dynamic front-man could only engineer an effort wide of the left hand upright. Disappointment for the home support who urged their side to strike while the iron was hot.
Bendtner was next to trouble the statisticians as he latched onto a cross to nod wide of the upright, before Zamora’s skied effort rather served to epitomise his contribution and that of his team-mates in the opening exchange.
Sunderland were slightly rocked by the news that the returning John O’Shea would have to depart with injury – his replacement by Fraizer Campbell in a shake up that saw Gardner shift to full back and the former Manchester United striker slot in up front.
It rather spurred Martin O’Neill’s men onto the opening goal five minutes before the break, but it was ultimately the self-destructive nature of the visiting defence that handed Sunderland the early advantage at the Stadium of Light.
McClean was afforded the freedom of Sunderland down the left delivering a fine effort into the heart of the area. NICKLAS BENDTNER ghosted between Anton Ferdinand and Taiwo – escaping his latter marker – before powering home beyond a rooted Paddy Kenny.
GOAL: SUNDERLAND 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
While it was a hammer blow for QPR, it was a goal that was entirely foreseeable. A similar time and situation to the goal conceded against Bolton Wanderers courtesy of Darren Pratley. It begs the question what training entails and how they are learning from their previous errors.
Taiwo tried to make amends immediately with a run full of intent down the left – his delivery was sublime but Cissé saw a header deflected wide of the upright and away for a corner kick. It was the final effort of a disappointing opening period that displayed exactly the reason why QPR fight for their safety.
Rather than galvanising the visiting side, midweek seemed to drain and adjust the focus and confidence of the players, who seemed to firmly returned to their shells and prove themselves to be relegation fodder once more.
HALF TIME: SUNDERLAND 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
It would have to be a good half time team talk from Hughes to awaken QPR from their slumber, as the game seemed to be drifting by too many players and in a relegation scrap that is a perilous state of mind to be in.
In truth referee Mike Jones was putting in a disappointing performance, in stark contrast to that of Howard Webb during the week. The inconsistency week in week of officiating is certainly not helping matters but it is also not the primary cause of their destruction.
Samba Diakité was free to challenge fairly against Liverpool and as a result had a commendable game – today Mr Jones’ harsh early caution of the Malian epitomised the calibre of irrational, erratic and inconsistent officiating that continues to blight the league.
Diakité had to be withdrawn for his own good, with Ákos Buzsáky coming on in his stead. Gardner was in no mood to hang around and show sympathy as his rasping free-kick cannoned back off the underside of the bar and cleared away to safety.
As part of this move Cissé surged away with possession before losing the ball, his ill-advised resultant lunge into Fraizer Campbell was naive at best and destructive at worst as he was reduced to his knees at the sight of Mike Jones’ red card – certainly justifiable.
For the second time this campaign Cissé sees red and will now be missing for half of QPR’s horrendous run in. It mattered little to Sunderland who set about their task to instant effect, breaking away with breathtaking ease.
Sessegnon rounded off a fine counter-attacking move by placing wide before McClean showed time and again why he’s such a highly rated Premier League prospect. He had a couple of shots blocked, but this failed to dampen the spirit showed by the young wide-man.
He wasn’t to be denied with 20 minutes remaining after more ponderous defending from the visitors. A ball forward was not defended well in the slightest by Onouha and JAMES MCCLEAN found space in behind, his initial shot was blocked by Young before following up to deflect and effort off Onouha and beyond Kenny.
GOAL: SUNDERLAND 2-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
A bitter pill to swallow for QPR who were dropping without so much of a whimper – tough to take for the visiting supporters who had travelled a long way to follow their side. While the turn out was modest, the disappointment was palpable.
A third was to follow five minutes later as yet more self-destructive defending cost the visiting side dear. Buzsáky, Onouha and Young played a frankly ridiculous triangle and had their pocked pinched by the ever-sprightly McClean.
His ball across was gratefully received by STEPHANE SESSEGNON who had an open goal barely yards out and caressed beyond a beleaguered Kenny, sparking a mass exodus from the away end, perhaps justifiably given the frustration at the disastrous self-imploding nature of the set-up.
GOAL: SUNDERLAND 3-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
One goal was tough, two was very tough, three was unassailable and it made for painful viewing as ten man QPR laboured like a side that didn’t believe they could fight until the death in a relegation dog fight. The body language in particular was telling, the fight was up in this encounter.
It was looking ominous for Rangers who were by no means inspired by the introduction of Shaun Wright-Phillips. The diminutive wide-man looked willing but struggled against an experienced former team mate in Wayne Bridge.
They did however grab a consolation goal, and in fairness to the goalscorer it did not deserve to be merely that. Michael Turner was penalised for a foul on Zamora and TAYE TAIWO stood over the ball with Buzsáky.
The Nigerian international curled a sumptuous left-footed free-kick into the top corner despite the best intentions of the underworked Mignolet who could only palm the ball into the roof of the net. Relief evident in the expression of the AC Milan loanee.
GOAL: SUNDERLAND 3-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
It was a goal that helped reduce the dent in the goal difference if nothing more, but it was quite a disappointment for Taiwo that this should be but a footnote on an afternoon where far greater wounds were already self-inflicted.
Wright-Phillips struck a daisy-cutter right footed a distance wide of the upright to rather epitomise that lack of guile and cutting edge in the front-line today – before or after the dismissal of the petulant Cissé.
With every direct pass being gratefully gobbled up by Krgyiakos and Turner and Zamora left with only the battle wounds and no goals to his name – his replacement Jay Bothroyd seemed to suffer a similar fate upon his late introduction.
Disappointment in spadefuls as QPR not only failed to capitalise on their midweek elation, but will now be without a talismanic goalscorer for four crucial matches. The irony being that he would have grabbed his own throat for such a challenge earlier in the year.
It helped to compound the misery on a long journey back, as with ten or eleven QPR were second best to Sunderland on the day, sparking fears once more that time is running out and the trap door looms large.
FULL TIME: SUNDERLAND 3-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS