Crewe Alexandra 0 Sunderland 4: Stunning and ruthless display sees Cats go back into top two
Sunderland’s fine start to the League One campaign continued with an emphatic 4-0 win at Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday night.
Lee Johnson’s side produced a display of ruthless finishing to sweep aside the second-bottom side in League On, showcasing their attacking quality even with a number of players sidelined.
Though the home side did carry something of an attacking threat through much of the game, they struggled to live with Sunderland’s forward play and in the end the scoreline reflected the ease with which the visitors were able to play through the line.
A Ross Stewart brace secured the points after an early own goal from Terell Thomas, before Leon Dajaku added a stunning fourth on the break.
The only setback for the Black Cats was that Alex Pritchard picked up an injury on a night where he had taken his chance to shine in Elliot Embleton’s absence.
The Black Cats had been handed a significant boost before the game, with Aiden McGeady passed fit to return to the starting XI and Leon Dajaku strengthening the bench from Saturday’s crucial win.
In the opening exchanges they looked a threat every time they broke into the final third, though some slack play at the back more than kept the out-of-form hosts interested in the contest.
The first real effort on goal came when Pritchard, at the heart of all Sunderland’s play, swung a corner to the back post. Tom Flanagan rose to meet it and forced a decent stop from Will Jaaskalainen as he turned it over the bar.
Shortly afterwards the attacking midfielder had a chance to get on the scoresheet himself when Aiden O’Brien drove through the heart of the pitch. His through ball perhaps should have been hit first time, and by the time Pritchard did strike the angle had narrowed and Jaaskalainen was able to palm clear.
Crewe were already visibly struggling to live with Sunderland when they got into advanced areas, but a couple of poor balls out from the back meant the visitors were never comfortable through that opening quarter.
Indeed, the hosts were unlucky not to get on the scoresheet when Celtic loanee Scott Robertson hit an effort from the edge of the area just wide. Moments later wing-back Ramsay had an even better opening, but his effort flashed wide of Hoffmann’s near post.
Sunderland heeded the warning.
They went close when a quick free-kick was worked out to McGeady on the left, his low cross diverted towards goal by O’Brien. Jaaskelainen turned it away with his trailing leg, and the loose ball just evaded Carl Winchester. It would be something of a theme to the half, with O’Brien excellent and a constant threat just without being able to find the goal.
Dan Neil would spring him clear with a fine ball over the top shortly before the opener, but the Irishman was unable to gather and get the shot away in time.
No matter. Pritchard fired a low cross in from the left and with Stewart looming over his shoulder, Terell Thomas sliced an attempted clearance into the far corner.
The confidence ebbed away from the hosts, and it was two when Sunderland built a fine move down the right flank. Pritchard released Neil who showed excellent composure not to take an early shot from a narrow angle. Instead he stood up a cross to the back post, where Stewart stooped to turn a clever header into the far corner.
It should have been three before the break, O’Brien firing over at the far post after an excellent cross from McGeady.
Johnson’s side were still served the occasional warning, Winchester doing superbly to make a last-gasp challenge on Thomas after a Sunderland corner turned into a threatening Crewe break.
The early exchanges of the second half also did much suggest that the game was not yet over.
Both full backs were forced into yellow cards as Crewe posed a threat in the wide area, but the hosts were left to rue more soft defending when they failed to deal with a Pritchard corner to the near post. Doyle made the first connection, and Stewart was left entirely unmarked at the back post and was left with the simplest of finishes.
It was a goal with a sting in the tail for Johnson; Pritchard immediately signalling to the bench for a substitution with injury. Hoffmann then had to make a stunning save to deny Mandron, flying to his left with the ball seemingly destined for the far corner.
Despite the comfortable scoreline the hosts continued to pose something of a threat, substitute Kashket particularly lively.
Crewe boss Artell looked to strengthen his forward line again and though that brought chances, it also left space for Sunderland to counter.
They began to open up the hosts on the break regularly and the fourth came when they quickly spotted a chance to turn a corner into a break of their own. McGeady released substitute Dajaku, who picked up the pass on the halfway line and just kept going. With Neil racing forward he looked for the pass, but it was never quite there and in the end he simply rifled an outstanding low drive into the near corner, completely wrong-footing goalkeeper Jaaskelainen.
Sunderland XI: Hoffmann; Winchester, Flanagan, Doyle, Cirkin (Hume, 64); Neil, O’Nien; McGeady (Wright, 75), Pritchard (Dajaku, 57), O’Brien; Stewart
Subs: Burge, Harris, Younger, Wearne
Crewe Alexandra XI: Jasskelainen, Ramsay, Thomas (Sass-Davies, 71), Offord, Long (Gomes, 59), Mandron, McFadzean, Murphy, Daniels, Robertson, Bennett (Kashket, 59)
Subs: Richards, Adebisi, Porter, Finney
Bookings: Winchester, 50 Cirkin, 52 Murphy, 75