Sunderland 2 Blackburn 1: Ross Stewart and on-loan Everton striker earn big win

Sunderland snatched a superb Boxing Day win against Blackburn Rovers as Ellis Simms struck in stoppage time to complete an impressive turnaround.
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Tony Mowbray’s side fell behind to an own goal against the run of play but responded immediately through a Ross Stewart penalty and a clever finish from the Everton loanee secured the points late on.

It was no more than they deserved for a bright performance against a side flying high in the Championship table.

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Though Sunderland started brightly it was the visitors who had the first meaningful effort, Bradley Dack meeting a corner on the edge of the box and hitting a half volley well over the bar. Mowbray had named an attacking XI and slowly but surely it began to show, Amad and Patrick Roberts linking up nicely to regularly pull Blackburn’s defence out of position.

Ross Stewart scores his seventh goal of the seasonRoss Stewart scores his seventh goal of the season
Ross Stewart scores his seventh goal of the season

The problem was turning that into clear efforts on goal, a weak volley from Luke O’Nien their only effort of note from a promising wave of pressure. They were made to pay minutes later when Ballard was caught out of position and forced into a foul close to his own box. The inswinging free kick was good, and Stewart could only turn into his own net.

The response was almost instant, lovely play from Amad and then Clarke allowing the hosts to get into the box. Stewart did superbly to get in between the ball and the defender, drawing the foul and then stepping up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Mowbray’s side continued to play the better football even if the quality of their opposition on the break was obvious. Clear chances were few and far between, a good run from Clarke leading to Roberts dragging an effort just wide of the near post before the break.

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Sunderland’s momentum at the start of the second half was disrupted by an earl injury to Cirkin but with one his first touches Trai Hume forced a good stop from Kaminski, a fine move that ended with the youngster overlapping into the box.

The Black Cats continued to edge a tight game, Stewart missing a big chance when he could only make a weak connection with a Clarke pass after the winger had driven through the heart of the pitch. The game was opening up, Patterson saving well from Morton before Amad had an effort of his own at the other end.

A good game looked to be fizzling out as it entered five minutes of stoppage time but a good driving run from Ballard drew a free kick and the impressive defender then kept it alive with an excellent first-contact header. It broke to Simms who did superbly under pressure, shifting the ball out from under his feet and turning towards the far corner.

Blackburn launched it forward to try and salvage something from the game but the Black Cats did superbly to defend their box and claim three valuable and ultimately deserved three points – lifting them into the top half before the 3pm kick offs.

Sunderland AFC XI: Patterson; Gooch (Wright, 79), O’Nien, Ballard, Cirkin (Hume, 50); Evans, Neil; Roberts (Simms, 79), Amad, Clarke; Stewart

Subs: Bass, Ba, Michut, Matete

Blackburn Rovers XI: Kaminski, Hyam, Ayala, Rankin-Costello, Hedges, Buckleu, Morton, Pickering, Dack (Travis, 74), Brereton-Diaz, Gallagher (Hirst, 74)

Subs: Pears, Wharton, Markanday, Phillips, Garrett

Bookings: Morton, 25 Cirkin, 38 Ayala, 51 Hume, 59 Buckley, 86 Hirst, 90

Attendance: 43,940