WEST BROMWICH ALBION 3 SUNDERLAND 0
Tony Mowbray is refusing to give up on Albion’s Premier League status just yet following victory against Sunderland.
The Baggies drew three points nearer safety thanks to their first win since January.
Despite the maths doing Albion few favours, Mowbray believes his side can still defy the odds, even though it would mean having to win at least three of their final four games - if not all of them.
Sunderland were bad - very bad. They lacked fight, the two strikers Djibril Cisse and Kenwyne Jones bottled the aerial and ground battle, while their midfield, marshall by the rotund Andy Reid, offered little.
But that should not mask what was an impressive display by Mowbray’s side.
Jonas Olsson, Chris Brunt and substitute Juan-Carlos Menseguez scored the goals, with Scott Carson being rarely threatened at the other end.
For Mowbray the victory was as much about restoring some joy and pride, not least to the supporters.
“It was important to give something back to the fans,” said Mowbray.
“We managed to keep the ball out of our net and score three goals yet it was our normal type of performance. We just improved our quality in each box.
“It’s only right you acknowledge the fans. There are not many clubs that I can think of where in our current plight the stadium is bouncing.
“The stadium is full and they’re fully behind their team.
“There are no empty seats anywhere in the stadium and they’re vocally right behind their side. It’s amazing to me.
“But I’m hopeful they see a team that is trying to do the right things, trying to be progressive and trying to build something for the future.
“What I can say to them, given time, is they will see a West Bromwich Albion team playing with a flair and hopefully scoring goals, being expansive and playing football to enjoy.
“I also understand it’s got to be winning football.
“This year the league has found us out with its quality and experience. But we will all learn from that.
“If we do have to go down to bounce back, we will draw on that experience.
“It’s right we keep believing and give the fans a little bit of hope - let’s wait and see.”
It was Albion were looked brightest early on although the Black Cats didn’t really feel threatened by a series of misplaced balls. Robert Koren went close after 12 minutes but could only watch his goalbound shot bounce off Anton Ferdinand and away. Ex-Albion man Kieran Richardson had the best chance of the opening half. The Sunderland midfielder struck a long-range rising 35th-minute shot from but was denied by Carson. Albion were generally restricted to shots from just outside their own penalty area.
But it was Mowbray’s men who struck first. The Baggies were awarded a 40th-minute corner after Fortune’s cross was knocked away for a corner. Greening’s flag-kick, which according to the away fans was taken outside the quadrant, was nodded on by Abdoulaye Meite straight into Jonas Olsson’s path. The Albion defender pulled away from his marker and struck a low shot to beat Fulop.
Tony Mowbray’s side continue to squeeze more out of Sunderland.
They didn’t have to wait long for another chance. Marc-Antoine Fortune dragged Collins out of position and sent in a low cross. Brunt ran into the box unnoticed to finish off the 59th-minute chance and grab his fourth goal in three games.
The home side started to play with more swagger and were reward with their third late on.
Just to make sure Juan Carlos Menseguez collected Brunt’s 88th-minute pass, darted past Anton Ferdinand and coolly slotted a low shot past Marton Fulop.
Scorers: Olsson (40), Brunt (59), Menseguez (88).
WEST BROM (4-2-3-1): Carson, Zuiverloon, Meite (Martis, h/t), Olsson, Robinson, Koren, Dorrans (Menseguez, 64), Brunt, Greening, Simpson (Mulumbu, h/t), Fortune. Substitutes: Kiely (gk), Teixeira, Menseguez, Valero, Wood.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Fulop, Bardsley, Davenport, Ferdinand, Collins, Edwards (Malbranque, 54), Richardson, Tainio (Healy, 87), Reid (Whitehead, 53), Cisse, Jones. Substitutes: Colgan (gk), Murphy, Leadbitter, Healy, McShane.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).
Booking: Sunderland – Bardsley (foul).