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Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Saturday, 20 March 2010

Sunderland   3 - 1   Birmingham

Darren Bent (centre) celebrates
Bent scored twice to take his tally for the season to 21 goals

By Phil Dawkes

Sunderland claimed their second win in three games with a hard-fought victory over a spirited Birmingham.

The Black Cats were ahead as early as the fifth minute courtesy of a neat finish from Darren Bent from six yards.

The England striker made it 2-0 just six minutes later, finishing well after being fed in by Steed Malbranque.

Birmingham rallied well and on the hour Cameron Jerome ran clear to pull a goal back, but late on Fraizer Campbell's sliding finish sealed the home victory.

Having finally claimed their first win of 2010 with a 4-0 thrashing of Bolton on 9 March, Sunderland have, by the admission of manager Steve Bruce, begun to play with a greater freedom and style than at any other time during his tenure.

'Unbelievable' match ages Bruce

One of the chief individual beneficiaries of this has been striker Bent, who has recaptured his goalscoring touch in spectacular fashion to reinvigorate Sunderland's season and boost his chances of making Fabio Capello's squad for the World Cup this summer.

A hip injury to Kenwyne Jones, picked up in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City last Saturday, meant Bent was paired with a new partner in Benjani Mwaruwari, making his first start since joining on loan from Manchester City, and the Zimbabwean made a telling early contribution.

He found space in the box to receive the ball and just as was about to pull the trigger, Stephen Carr's tackle diverted the ball to Bent, who fired in from six yards.

It was Bent's 20th goal of the season and he would only have to wait six more minutes to notch his 21st.

Malbranque carried the ball into the Birmingham half before feeding Bent on the edge of the area and the England man turned inside the covering Birmingham defender and fired past Joe Hart.

But for goalkeeper Hart, the visitors could have been facing an even steeper second-half mountain to climb.

606: DEBATE
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He produced two superb saves to keep the home side at bay - firstly parrying a powerful 15-yard strike from Campbell and then, later in the half, clawing out a Keiron Richardson curling shot from the edge of the area after the midfielder had been gifted possession by Scott Dann.

While the majority of the credit must go to the home side for seizing the initiative in attack, it is clear why Birmingham have kept only one clean sheet in their last nine matches.

However, Birmingham have recent precedent on which to draw inspiration during such predicaments, having come back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw with Everton last Saturday and their response here was equally positive.

Unfortunately for the visitors, their attacking efforts were met by an inspired performance from Black Cats goalkeeper Craig Gordon, who produced a string of saves to regularly deny the visitors.

On the half hour, Carr ran to the byline on the right and crossed for Christian Benitez whose header would have found the net but for a diving save from the Scotland international, palming on to his own crossbar and over.

Not long after, Benitez engineered space in the box for a shot from 12 yards but it was saved by the arm of Gordon, who also picked himself up in time to palm away Carr's follow-up effort.

McLeish committed to Birmingham

Benitez's fellow striker Jerome could have scored a hat-trick before he eventually brought his side back into the match on the hour.

He had already badly miscued an effort wide from a Liam Ridgewell cross and then seen Gordon save well with a foot after he had run clear on goal before once again finding himself with only the keeper to beat but this time finding a finish of quality to side-foot inside the far post.

Now firmly in control and sensing a growing nervousness in Sunderland, Birmingham continued to push forward, but again found Gordon a resolute last line of home defence.

Birmingham introduced former Sunderland favourite Kevin Phillips, hoping to harness the goalscoring prowess he demonstrated in six prolific years on Wearside, but when his moment came in the 80th minute he was unable to get enough purchase on a header from a free-kick to steer it anywhere but onto the roof of the net

Inevitably, Birmingham's desperation for an equaliser left them vulnerable at the back and in the dying moments of the match Sunderland capitalised.

Jordan Henderson ran clear down the right and crossed for Campbell to slide in and finish allowing the home fans a huge collective sigh of relief.


Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:

"It was an unbelievable game of football. You know now why we age visibly in front of you with games like that.

"First half we were in complete control and then second half, for whatever reason, we let them back in.

"It seems to be ingrained here that we go from the sublime to the ridiculous. It's our day today but we made it hairy for ourselves."

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish:

"We shouldn't have lost. We had enough chances second half to win a couple of games but to be fair we could have been four down after 20 minutes.

"The start was so unlike us. Second half we were much more like ourselves and Craig Gordon has saved them from losing.

"What the players have done up until now is brilliant but I'm not going to let them saunter until the end of the season."

Live text and stats

 

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Premier League

Home Team Score Away Team Time
Sunderland 3-1 Birmingham FT
(HT 2-0)
  • Bent 5
  • Bent 11
  • Campbell 88
  • Jerome 60

Sunderland

Substitutes

Birmingham

Substitutes

Ref: WaltonAtt: 37,962
SUNDERLAND
BIRMINGHAM

Possession

  • Sunderland 53%
  • Birmingham 47%

Attempts on target

  • Sunderland 9
  • Birmingham 14

Attempts off target

  • Sunderland 2
  • Birmingham 7

Corners

  • Sunderland 7
  • Birmingham 10

Fouls

  • Sunderland 8
  • Birmingham 8
  • Final Result
  • Full Time
  • 90:00+4:16 The referee blows his whistle to end the game.
  • 90:00+3:20 Alan Hutton fouled by James McFadden, the ref awards a free kick. Craig Gordon takes the indirect free kick.
  • 90:00+3:07 Centre by Lee Bowyer.
  • 90:00+2:20 Shot from inside the six-yard box by James McFadden goes wide right of the goal.
  • 90:00+1:55 Stephen Carr crosses the ball, Craig Gardner takes a shot. Save by Craig Gordon.
  • 87:47 Jordan Henderson provided the assist for the goal.
  • 87:47 GOAL - Fraizer CampbellSunderland 3 - 1 Birmingham Goal scored by Fraizer Campbell from inside the six-yard box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Sunderland 3-1 Birmingham.
  • 87:32 The ball is delivered by James McFadden, Craig Gordon makes a save.
  • 86:15 Free kick awarded for a foul by Lee Cattermole on Roger Johnson. Joe Hart restarts play with the free kick.
  • 85:58 Darren Bent takes a shot. Roger Johnson manages to make a clearance.
  • 82:41 David Meyler fouled by Lee Bowyer, the ref awards a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Phillip Bardsley.
  • 82:33 Barry Ferguson produces a cross, Alan Hutton makes a clearance.
  • 81:38 The ball is delivered by Lee Cattermole, Scott Dann manages to make a clearance.
  • 80:11 Kevin Phillips has a header from inside the six-yard box and clears the crossbar.
  • 79:42 Free kick awarded for a foul by Darren Bent on Roger Johnson. Joe Hart restarts play with the free kick.
  • 79:01 Substitution Lee Cattermole replaces Steed Malbranque.
  • 78:13 Outswinging corner taken left-footed by James McFadden played to the near post, Lee Bowyer has a headed effort from close in and clears the bar.
  • 78:01 Kevin Phillips has an effort at goal. Jordan Henderson gets a block in.
  • 77:14 Shot by Stephen Carr. Blocked by Anton Ferdinand.
  • 76:53 Roger Johnson fouled by Darren Bent, the ref awards a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Barry Ferguson.
  • 75:08 James McFadden produces a left-footed shot from a long way out which goes wide right of the goal.
  • 73:49 Jordan Henderson delivers the ball.
  • 72:27 Kieran Richardson produces a cross, Darren Bent takes a shot. Save by Joe Hart.
  • 71:48 Substitution Lee Bowyer joins the action as a substitute, replacing Michel.
  • 71:02 Substitution Jordan Henderson joins the action as a substitute, replacing Benjani Mwaruwari.
  • 71:02 Substitution John Mensah leaves the field to be replaced by Phillip Bardsley.
  • 70:41 Corner taken left-footed by James McFadden from the right by-line, Roger Johnson has a header from close in and clears the crossbar.
  • 70:28 Liam Ridgewell takes a shot. Craig Gordon makes a save.
  • 70:00 Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by James McFadden, Craig Gordon makes a save.
  • 68:40 Outswinging corner taken left-footed by James McFadden from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by Michael Turner.
  • 68:27 Kevin Phillips takes a shot. Craig Gordon gets a block in.
  • 68:10 Free kick awarded for a foul by Alan Hutton on Michel. Michel takes the free kick.
  • 67:09 John Mensah gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephen Carr. Shot comes in from Craig Gardner from the free kick, John Mensah gets a block in.
  • 63:20 Unfair challenge on Fraizer Campbell by James McFadden results in a free kick. The free kick is swung in left-footed by Kieran Richardson, clearance made by Craig Gardner.
  • 59:50 Assist on the goal came from Michel.
  • 59:50 GOAL - Cameron JeromeSunderland 2 - 1 Birmingham A goal is scored by Cameron Jerome from inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Sunderland 2-1 Birmingham.
  • 58:52 Substitution Christian Benitez leaves the field to be replaced by Kevin Phillips.
  • 58:52 Substitution James McFadden comes on in place of Keith Fahey.
  • 58:23 Stephen Carr takes a shot. Save by Craig Gordon.
  • 58:07 Effort on goal by Christian Benitez from 12 yards. Save by Craig Gordon.
  • 56:22 Craig Gardner challenges Kieran Richardson unfairly and gives away a free kick. David Meyler restarts play with the free kick.
  • 54:35 Corner taken right-footed by Keith Fahey, clearance made by Darren Bent.
  • 54:07 Corner taken by Keith Fahey from the left by-line played to the near post, Benjani Mwaruwari manages to make a clearance.
  • 53:53 Cameron Jerome takes a shot. Save by Craig Gordon.
  • 48:35 Centre by Craig Gardner, Craig Gordon makes a comfortable save.
  • 45:01 The second half kicks off.
  • Half Time
  • 45:00+2:22 The whistle is blown to end the first half.
  • 45:00+0:18 Liam Ridgewell delivers the ball, Close range shot by Cameron Jerome goes over the bar.
  • 44:17 David Meyler fouled by Michel, the ref awards a free kick. David Meyler takes the indirect free kick.
  • 43:37 Centre by Fraizer Campbell, clearance by Cameron Jerome.
  • 43:16 Kieran Richardson decides to take a short corner.
  • 42:15 Darren Bent shoots direct from the free kick, Craig Gardner gets a block in.
  • 42:15 Booking Craig Gardner goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.
  • 41:58 Free kick awarded for a foul by Barry Ferguson on Steed Malbranque.
  • 41:09 Effort from outside the penalty area by Steed Malbranque goes wide left of the target.
  • 40:38 Scott Dann gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Fraizer Campbell. Direct free kick taken by Alan Hutton.
  • 37:28 Steed Malbranque produces a right-footed shot from close range that goes over the bar.
  • 37:15 Shot from 18 yards by Kieran Richardson. Save made by Joe Hart.
  • 36:12 Inswinging corner taken by Steed Malbranque, Stephen Carr makes a clearance.
  • 33:24 Corner from the right by-line taken by Kieran Richardson, save by Joe Hart.
  • 33:17 The ball is swung over by David Meyler, Barry Ferguson manages to make a clearance.
  • 30:48 Alan Hutton delivers the ball.
  • 29:42 Shot from just outside the box by Michel goes over the bar.
  • 29:31 Keith Fahey decides to take a short corner.
  • 29:08 The ball is swung over by Stephen Carr, Christian Benitez takes a shot. Save by Craig Gordon.
  • 27:49 Cameron Jerome sends in a cross.
  • 26:00 Steed Malbranque produces a cross, Joe Hart makes a save.
  • 25:31 Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Steed Malbranque, Stephen Carr manages to make a clearance.
  • 24:50 A cross is delivered by Alan Hutton, save by Joe Hart.
  • 23:49 Corner taken by Keith Fahey from the right by-line.
  • 23:35 Shot from 20 yards by Keith Fahey. Craig Gordon makes a save.
  • 22:21 Corner taken by Craig Gardner.
  • 22:07 Keith Fahey takes a shot from 18 yards. Save by Craig Gordon.
  • 21:16 A cross is delivered by Liam Ridgewell, Michael Turner manages to make a clearance.
  • 21:02 Shot from 20 yards from Cameron Jerome. Michael Turner gets a block in.
  • 20:40 Kieran Richardson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Christian Benitez. Direct free kick taken by Barry Ferguson.
  • 20:23 Steed Malbranque fouled by Michel, the ref awards a free kick. Steed Malbranque takes the free kick.
  • 19:54 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Keith Fahey from the left by-line, clearance made by Michael Turner.
  • 19:21 Foul by Michael Turner on Cameron Jerome, free kick awarded. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Keith Fahey, clearance made by John Mensah.
  • 15:55 Corner taken by Steed Malbranque played to the near post, Craig Gardner manages to make a clearance.
  • 15:42 Fraizer Campbell takes a shot. Joe Hart makes a save.
  • 15:09 Corner taken left-footed by Kieran Richardson, save by Joe Hart.
  • 14:55 Alan Hutton takes a shot. Barry Ferguson gets a block in.
  • 10:30 The assist for the goal came from Steed Malbranque.
  • 10:30 GOAL - Darren BentSunderland 2 - 0 Birmingham Darren Bent gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the six-yard box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Sunderland 2-0 Birmingham.
  • 9:01 Darren Bent produces a cross, save by Joe Hart.
  • 7:56 The assistant referee signals for offside against Benjani Mwaruwari. Joe Hart restarts play with the free kick.
  • 7:21 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Steed Malbranque, clearance made by Michel.
  • 6:40 Benjani Mwaruwari is ruled offside. Joe Hart restarts play with the free kick.
  • 5:53 Alan Hutton delivers the ball, Barry Ferguson manages to make a clearance.
  • 4:51 GOAL - Darren BentSunderland 1 - 0 Birmingham Darren Bent gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the six-yard box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Sunderland 1-0 Birmingham.
  • 4:15 The ball is sent over by Steed Malbranque, Barry Ferguson makes a clearance.
  • 3:01 Free kick awarded for a foul by Benjani Mwaruwari on Michel. Free kick taken by Barry Ferguson.
  • 0:00 The game kicks-off.

Live text and data provided by The Press Association.



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Premier League table snapshot

As it stood on 20 Mar 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Arsenal 31 40 67
2 Man Utd 30 46 66
3 Chelsea 29 42 64
4 Tottenham 30 26 55
5 Liverpool 30 19 51
6 Man City 28 17 50
7 Aston Villa 29 17 50
8 Everton 30 6 45
9 Birmingham 30 -3 44
10 Fulham 29 0 38
11 Stoke 30 -6 36
12 Sunderland 30 -6 34
13 Blackburn 29 -17 34
14 Bolton 31 -20 32
15 Wigan 31 -30 31
16 Wolves 30 -24 28
17 West Ham 30 -14 27
18 Burnley 31 -33 24
19 Hull 30 -35 24
20 Portsmouth 30 -25 13

see also
Saturday football as it happened
20 Mar 10 |  Football



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