Wolves secure vital victory
Fletcher and Elokobi bag key second half goals to claim success
Last Updated: May 14, 2011 4:46pm
Steven Fletcher celebrates scoring Wolves' second goal at Sunderland
Mick McCarthy claimed his first-ever Premier League victory at the Stadium of Light as Wolves boosted their survival hopes with a crucial 3-1 victory at Sunderland.
The Irishman's 19 top-flight home games as Black Cats' boss did not yield a single three-point haul.
However, the manager and his Wolves players took a huge stride towards booking their place in next season's Premier League as they recorded their first win on Wearside since 1993 as well as recording successive victories for the first time since December 2009.
Vital second half goals from Steven Fletcher and George Elokobi made the game safe for the visitors and now McCarthy's side face Blackburn at home next week with destiny in their own hands.
In an entertaining opening 45 minutes Sunderland started the brighter and were unlucky to take the lead when Bolo Zenden struck the crossbar.
However, Black Cats old boy Jody Craddock broke the deadlock against the run of play as he crashed his shot into the bottom corner from Stephen Hunt's cross for his first goal in 14 months.
But 11 minutes before the break, the hosts were deservedly level when Benin international Stephane Sessegnon volleyed the ball home from close range, which was little more than the home side deserved.
Jamie O'Hara then struck the woodwork and it appeared Wolves were denied a clear penalty just before the break when Stephen Ward's cross hit the hand of John Mensah but referee Mike Jones waved away strong appeals.
Nine minutes into the second half, Wolves took the lead when substitute Matt Jarvis' cross was headed home by Fletcher for his 12th of the season and his sixth in eight games.
And the men from Molineux made the game safe 12 minutes from time as O'Hara's delicious free-kick was buried by Elokobi to wrap up the points.
The defeat was injury-plagued Sunderland's seventh of the season in the league on their own park, although Steve Bruce's men secured their own status with victory at Bolton last Saturday.
McCarthy returned to Wearside knowing three points to go with the ones they collected last weekend would go a long way towards guaranteeing their top-flight status.
But it was another ex-Black Cat who made the breakthrough when Craddock, who scored just twice in 171 appearances for the Wearsiders, thumped home a 23rd-minute volley from Hunt's cross to give the visitors a dream start.
The goal came distinctly against the run of play with Zenden having earlier rattled the angle of bar and post with a powerfully-struck left-foot effort which left keeper Wayne Hennessey rooted to the spot.
Hennessey, however, was far more pro-active with 18 minutes gone when he dived to his right to palm away Sessegnon's drive.
The woodwork came to Sunderland's rescue 14 minutes later when Jamie O'Hara's dipping shot eluded keeper Simon Mignolet but not the crossbar, and Wolves' despair was to increase within two minutes.
Zenden's right-wing corner was allowed to bounce inside the six-yard box and the unmarked Sessegnon acrobatically volleyed home from five yards to level.
The half ended with Sunderland firmly in the ascendancy despite the selection problems which had robbed Bruce of an entire starting XI, but with the visitors still firmly in the hunt and believing they might have had a penalty for handball against John Mensah as he blocked Stephen Ward's cross.
McCarthy made a change at the break when he replaced midfielder Adlene Guedioura with Matt Jarvis, and the England international won an early corner which the home defence dealt with less than convincingly.
Fletcher passed up a glorious 49th-minute opportunity to restore his side's lead when he beat the offside trap to home in on Mignolet, but full-back Ahmed Elmohamady covered across well as he and Mignolet squeezed him out.
Hennessey had to be at his best to tip Steed Malbranque's deflected shot over the bar two minutes later, but the momentum was shifting and it did so dramatically with 54 minutes gone.
Jarvis skipped past full-back Bardsley on the right and dinked the ball to the far post, were Fletcher climbed high above Mensah to head home with Mignolet having horribly misjudged the flight.
The home side survived a dreadful misunderstanding between Mignolet and Mensah five minutes later, but they were convinced they should have been awarded a 62nd-minute penalty for Hunt's challenge on Sessegnon, although replays suggested referee Mike Jones had made the right decision.
Bruce introduced Ryan Noble in place of Malbranque with 20 minutes remaining, and he was soon followed by Republic of Ireland international Kevin Doyle, who replaced Fletcher on his return from a lay-off of almost two months with knee ligament damage.
The striker won a corner within two minutes of his arrival from which Elokobi headed just over with the home side once again less than effective in defence.But the defender was more accurate 12 minutes from time when he met O'Hara's free-kick with a diving header to seal the win.
|Sunderland||Team Statistics||Wolverhampton Wanderers|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||3|
|5||Shots off Target||5|
Barclays Premier League
|13||West Bromwich Albion||14||15|
|17||West Ham United||14||13|