Football: Fletcher brace gives Sunderland first win

SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom: Steven Fletcher scored his first goals of 2014 as Sunderland won 3-1 at home to Stoke City on Saturday to record their first victory of the Premier League season.

The Scottish striker scored either side of half-time at the Stadium of Light to earn Sunderland three points after Connor Wickham’s early header had been cancelled out by Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam.

His brace enabled Sunderland to avenge their 2-1 home defeat by Stoke in the League Cup last month and gave Gus Poyet’s side a first victory of the campaign after five draws and a defeat.

Sunderland leapt from 17th to 11th place in the early-season standings, while Mark Hughes’s Stoke fell to 15th.

Hughes made one change to the Stoke team that won 1-0 at Newcastle United last Monday, with Marko Arnautovic replacing the injured Mame Biram Diouf, while Fletcher and Jordi Gomez came into Sunderland’s starting XI.

Fletcher quickly made his presence felt by creating the hosts’ fourth-minute opener, crossing for Wickham to head home.

Steven Nzonzi spurned a chance to equalize when he side-footed a shot at Vito Mannone moments later, but Stoke did draw level in the 15th minute when Adam found the bottom-right corner from a Victor Moses pass.

It was to be Moses’s last contribution of note, as he had to leave the fray due to injury three minutes later, with on-loan Liverpool winger Oussama Assaidi coming on.

Fletcher restored Sunderland’s advantage midway through the first half, dispatching a cross from Gomez with his head following a short corner.

Stoke pair Ryan Shawcross and Peter Crouch saw chances to equalize go begging before half-time — the former heading over from a corner, the latter seeing a header saved by Mannone.

Meanwhile, Will Buckley threatened to inflate Sunderland’s lead with a long-range effort that was tipped over the bar by Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Following a fractious start to the second period, Fletcher made the game safe in the 79th minute.

Wickham was the architect, surging into the Stoke box and driving the ball across goal from the right.

Jack Rodwell missed his kick from six yards, but Fletcher was on hand to send the ball into the roof of the net at the back post.

Source: APP