The first meeting between Sunderland and Newcastle since March 2016 was played out in a predictably passionate and intense atmosphere but Eddie Howe’s side stamped their Premier League superiority on the occasion to end a sequence of seven defeats in their past eight games.
Newcastle broke the deadlock after 35 minutes when Dan Ballard sliced Joelinton’s cross into his own net while Championship side Sunderland were undone by another defensive calamity seconds after half-time, Miguel Almiron robbing Pierre Ekwah to set up Alexander Isak’s simple finish.
Sunderland rallied, keeper Martin Dubravka saving from Ekwah’s deflected shot, while Alex Pritchard glanced an effort against the bar and forced another fine stop from the Slovakian.
But the final word went to the visitors as Isak scored from the spot, with Newcastle’s first win over the Black Cats since 2011 ensuring they travelled the 13 miles back to Tyneside with renewed optimism.
Newcastle stop the rot
The sight of Newcastle’s players and staff posing for photographs in front of their jubilant fans inside the Stadium of Light after the final whistle was not simply a celebration of local derby supremacy against Sunderland but an illustration of the wider significance of this victory.
Newcastle would have been nursing a few nerves as they made the short journey to Wearside for an FA Cup tie that carried some of the hallmarks of a giant-killing given the Premier League side’s recent wretched form.
Instead, Newcastle cruised through virtually untroubled, with the huge gulf between the sides soon in evidence as Sunderland struggled to gain any sort of meaningful possession.
Bruno Guimaraes ruled the central areas while Anthony Gordon was a constant threat in the wide positions.
Newcastle were helped by a catalogue of errors in Sunderland’s defence but they were more than worthy winners and should have inflicted an even heavier defeat on the neighbours.
There was another injury blow when Joelinton limped off, which was the big negative, but this performance and result was the perfect tonic after the stickiest spell of Howe’s reign so far.
Newcastle have been knocked out of the Champions League and EFL Cup in recent weeks, as well as struggling in the league, so the pressure of results was mounting on Howe, if nothing else.
He will hope the controlled manner in which they subdued then overpowered Sunderland will provide a platform to revive a season that has been in danger of going off the rails.