Classic Sunderland as they find way of losing to QPR in blink of an eye

Jason Steele is sent off.
Jason Steele is sent off.

Teams at the bottom find ways to lose games and this from Sunderland was a classic example.

There had been nothing between the two sides in the opening 45, a woeful game but one in which the Black Cats were competing and not often troubled.

Yet in the blink of an eye they were a man down, a goal down, and closer to the Championship drop than ever before.

It was a calamitous passage of play, starting with a punt down the pitch that Sunderland did nothing to deal with. Jason Steele came charging out but the bounce took him out the game, the goalkeeper thrusting out a hand and seeing red.

Less than 10 minutes later Ebere Eze ran onto a Matt Smith pass and scored, leaving the visitors with a mountain to climb.

They toiled in the closing stages but never came close to scaling it.

With Hull City coming from behind to win against Norwich, it feels as if the last rites can start to be prepared - although they are still just four points from safety with Birmingham and Barnsley both losing too.

A switch to four defenders from Chris Coleman might have hinted at an open contest ahead but in truth, it was a turgid first half with little quality on show from either team.

Coleman will have taken some comfort from his side's defensive display, coping well with a very direct QPR side and giving Steele very little to do.

Only one meaningful shot was registered in the half, Ashley Fletcher sliding in Ovie Ejaria. The Liverpool loanee got the ball out from his feet but former Black Cat Nedum Onuoha raced back to cover and block the shot.

Both sides struggled for control of the midfield, the ball often fired into the channels with little purpose. Sunderland's cause was not helped when Jonny Williams, restored to the starting XI, was injured in a collision. Coleman rolled the dice, replacing him with the enigmatic Aiden McGeady.

An individual error always looked like it could be the difference and given how this season has gone, perhaps it was inevitable that it would be Sunderland to make it.

The half was not even five minutes old when a routine long ball ripped the Black Cats open. Lamine Kone was caught on his heels, but the situation still seemed without threat. Steele, however, misjudged the flight, caught outside his box and handling.

Referee Rob Jones showed a red card instantly.

To the chagrin of the away end, Coleman sacrificed Joel Asoro to introduce Lee Camp.

It was the Black Cats who went closest soon after, Fletcher's header cleared off the line, but QPR were the dominant force and Matt Smith's towering header at the back post went inches wide.

The inevitable goal came just minutes later, Eze playing a one-two with Smith before firing in at the near post.

Smith came close to adding a goal of his own when he raced in behind the Sunderland defence, but Camp did well to save.

The Sunderland substitute had to be at his best to turn a long-range effort from Bright Osayi-Samuel wide as QPR pushed for a second goal late on.

Sunderland's best attack came as Honeyman broke into the box, but his effort was blocked and after a flurry of corners and long-throws, so was the final whistle.

Sunderland XI: Steele, Matthews, Kone, O'Shea, Oviedo, Cattermole, Williams (McGeady, 31), Ejaria, Honeyman, Asoro (Camp, 49), Fletcher (Maja, 86) Subs: Jones, McManaman, Gooch, Robson

QPR XI: Smithies, Furlong, Bidwell, Onuoha, Robinson (Lynch, 45); Scowen, Luongo, Eze (Wszolek, 88), Freeman; Smyth (Osayi-Samuel 71) , Smith

Subs: Ingram, Cousins, Washington, Manning

Attendance: 14,216 (1,579)

Bookings: Freeman, 61 O'Shea, 70 Onuoha, 73. Red Card: Steele, 48