REPORT: SUNDERLAND 4-0 CARDIFF CITY
Cardiff City's hopes of Barclays Premier League survival suffered a set back in the northeast as rivals Sunderland ran out 4-0 winners at Stadium of Light.
It was Connor Wickham who continued his recent run of scoring form to give the Black Cats the lead before the half hour mark, before Fabio Borini slotted home a penalty before the break to double Sunderland's advantage as City went down to ten men following the dismissal of Juan Cala.
In need of goals and chasing the game, Wilfried Zaha came on a half time for the Bluebirds, but it was the Black Cats who would capitalise on their man advantage in the second half as first substitute Emmanuele Giaccherini netted a third before Wickham headed home late on to settle the result and the 4-0 scoreline.
Making one change to the starting-11 that took on Stoke City last weekend, Ole Gunnar Solskjær introduced Don Cowie on the right side of midfield in place of South Korean International Kim Bo Kyung who dropped to the bench.
Buoyed by recent results against Manchester City and Chelsea, the home side pushed from the off at a vibrant Stadium of Light, as first an Adam Johnson free-kick was scrambled away before David Marshall scooped a near post Wickham effort around his near post.
Looking to settle into the match City turned to Mats Daehli to take on the Sunderland defence, first seeing his shot deflect off Lee Cattermole before Fraizer Campbell looked to turn Wes Brown in the area only to be go to the floor under the challenge of the former Manchester United defender - minimal appeals saw play continue as Phil Dowd allowed play to continue.
Despite having settled into the game, it was the home side who would take the lead just before the half hour mark as Wickham rose above Theophile-Catherine at the far post to power a Seb Larsson corner into the top corner of the net.
City looked to respond as the first-half came to a close with Fabio sending a searching cross for the on-running Steven Caulker in the box only to see Brown head it clear. Shortly after City's task was to be made all the more difficult as they conceded a penalty and went down to ten men.
Hitting the Bluebirds on the break, Wickham was pulled back by Juan Cala on the very edge of the box, with play continuing initially as Phil Dowd played advantage. As Wickham took on the shot from the tight angle and City cleared their lines, the Referee pulled play back, awarding the penalty and giving a red card to Cala for his earlier challenge.
Fabio Borini stepped up to the spot, firing home past Marshall to double the Black Cats' advantage going into the interval.
HALF TIME: Sunderland 2-0 Cardiff City
Having to readjust after Cala's dismissal, Gary Medel slotted into the back four as Zaha came on to replace Cowie as a half time substitute.
Looking to make the most of their man advantage Borini went in search of a second for the Black Cats as he sent a curling effort just wide of the far post. With goals needed immediately, Solskjaer then introduced Kenwyne Jones for Fabio as City went on the attack despite being a man down.
It almost brought the desired effect as the Bluebirds nearly pulled within one through a Whittingham free-kick, deflected off the wall to force Black Cats' stopper Mannone into a strong save. A man down and pushing for a goal, City were always liable to be hit on the counter attack and almost conceded a third as Borini turned a Colback cross straight at goalkeeper Marshall with just over twenty minutes to go.
Unrelenting, the Black Cats would soon have that third however to put the result beyond doubt in the northeast, this time substitute Giaccherini picked up on the through ball before slotting home past Marshall to the delight of the home faithful and despair of the travelling Bluebirds.
With their tails up and about to climb out of the relegation zone into seventeenth in the Premier League table, Wickham would grab his second of the game as he headed home from a corner late on to complete the victory for the Black Cats.
FULL TIME: Sunderland 4-0 Cardiff City
Teams - Sunderland: Mannone, Vergini, Alonso, O'Shea (c), Brown, Cattermole, Larsson (Giaccherini 73), Colback (Bridcutt 84), Johnson (Gardner 84), Borini, Wickham. Subs: Bardsley, Altidore, Scocco, Ustari.
Goals: Wickham (26, 86), Borini (45), Giaccherini (76)
Cardiff City: Marshall; KTC, Caulker (C), Cala, Fabio (Jones 64); Cowie (Zaha 45), Medel, Whittingham, Dæhli; Mutch, Campbell (Bellamy 74). Subs: Lewis; Turner, Eikrem, John.
Attendance: 45,859 (Stadium of Light, Sunderland)