Crystal Palace 3 Sunderland 1
Crystal Palace Gabbidon 9’, Gayle 79’, O’Keefe 90+2’
Sunderland Fletcher 64’
Red card O’Shea (Sunderland)
Man of the match Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace)
Although they improved in the second half, Sunderland were desperately flat for long periods and, on this form, are in serious danger of relegation.
Manager Paolo Di Canio added his 11th signing of the season by landing the South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung but is adamant he wants to sign three more by the time the window closes on Monday.
That could mean departures, most likely Stephane Sessegnon, who has attracted interest from various Qatari clubs and was omitted from the match-day squad Saturday after being arrested and charged with drink-driving on Tuesday.
That is typical of Di Canio's disciplinarian approach, one that reportedly hasn't gone down well with a number of players.
Whether Palace have the quality or depth of squad to scrap their way to midtable once the adrenalin and euphoria of promotion is gone is questionable. For now they have spirit and, in Ian Holloway, a manager who is used to trying to sustain morale against impossible odds – although he insists he is trying to retain a more serious image this season.
"I'm trying to talk in a way so people don't think I'm funny anymore," he said last week. He was delighted with the "energy" of the crowd and said they deserved to get "swazzed" after the all-round performance of his side but spoke of seeking another "four or five" players.
Palace took a ninth-minute lead as a corner cannoned off John O'Shea and Kagisho Dikgacoi, then flicked off the heel of Danny Gabbidon for the defender's first Premier League goal in 116 matches – the third goal Sunderland have conceded from a set-play this season.
So bad was it that at one point towards the end of the first half, as Connor Wickham smashed an attempted to the wing out of play, Di Canio fell to his haunches, hands over his eyes.
Ji Dong-Won, having glumly and vainly stretched his neck at a series of high balls aimed at him in the first half, was withdrawn for Steven Fletcher, back from an ankle injury his first game since March, at the break.
The Scot was Sunderland's top scorer last season with 11 goals last season and it took him just 17 minutes to show just how much they've missed his cutting edge.
He, his fellow substitute Charis Mavrias and Jack Colback combined on the left, the Greek winger laying in the full-back to cross for Fletcher to thud a header into the bottom corner.
It was only a temporary respite, though, O'Shea tripping Dwight Gayle after the ball had spun from a Colback challenge into the box.
O'Shea was sent off and Gayle drilled the penalty under the dive of Kieren Westwood. The substitute Stuart O'Keefe curled a third in injury-time, the assist again coming from a Sunderland tackle.
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