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Match report: Crystal Palace 3 Sunderland 1
SUNDERLAND are still looking for their first league win of the season after going down 3-1 to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in a game that saw John O’Shea sent off.
Goals from Danny Gabbidon, Dwight Gayle and Stuart O’Keefe were enough to earn the Premier League newcomers three points despite Steven Fletcher’s equaliser after half time.
Gabiddon gave Palace the lead with Sunderland conceding their third goal from a set-piece in as many games this season, but Fletcher’s header drew the visitors level.
However, it was the hosts that ended the game with the points after Gayle’s penalty and O’Keefe’s late strike sent Sunderland back to Wearside empty-handed.
Di Canio made five changes from the side that beat MK Dons midweek with Keiren Westwood, Modibo Diakite, Seb Larsson, Emanuele Giaccherini and Connor Wickham all starting.
Ji was given a chance to atone for his performance on Tuesday, while his strike partner was rewarded for his goalscoring heroics with Jozy Altidore out injured with a hamstring strain.
Things couldn’t have started worse for the visitors, though, who went a goal behind inside nine minutes.
Again, it was from a set-piece with Jose Campana’s corner falling to Danny Gabbidon to finish after Ondrej Celustka had got a touch.
The Black Cats struggled to put two passes together in the opening exchanges, but Emanuele Giaccherini and Adam Johnson both looked lively on the flanks.
The wide men were getting in good position and sending dangerous balls into the middle, but Wickham and Ji failed to capitalise.
Their first real chance saw Johnson pull the ball back to Celustka who sent a dangerous ball into the middle, but Ji couldn’t get on the end of it despite being in the perfect position.
The early goal had lifted Selhurst Park and the hosts took confidence from their breakthrough, looking particularly dangerous on the break through new signing Jason Puncheon and Mile Jedinak.
Twice Puncheon collected the ball and ran through midfield unchallenged but both his shots went inches wide.
Johnson continued to press down the right and he almost created an opening when he squared to Wickham in the box, but the striker’s shot was blocked.
Giacchernini followed up with an effort of his own on the opposite flank, but Gabbidon did well to head the ball out for a corner.
Jedinak could have made it two nil with an audacious curling effort from 25 yards that had Westwood at full stretch, but luckily for the Black Cats keeper, Palace’s effort went over.
Di Canio refused to criticise Ji’s performance on Tuesday night, but the Black Cats boss clearly wasn’t happy with his striker’s contribution in the first half when Steven Fletcher came out for the restart to make his first appearance of the season.
Palace continued to press the visitors and had numerous chances to double their lead, most notably through Jedinak and Dwight Gayle.
Fletcher’s presence had given the Black Cats a lift and less than ten minutes after making his return, the Scotland international got his side back into the game.
The striker found Jack Colback on the left and continued his run forward, where he latched onto the left-back cross inside to area to head Sunderland level.
Fletcher could have got his second when was sent clear from Diakite’s header forward, but Palace defender Gabbidon made a crucial last-ditch interception before the striker could shoot.
Sunderland had got themselves back into the game, but with 11 minutes remaining Palace were gifted a second goal when John O’Shea brought down Gayle as he advanced into the box.
The young striker stepped up to take the spot kick and he made no mistake, sending Westwood the wrong way to put Palace back in front.
It could have been three minutes later when Gayle squared to substitute Jonny Williams, who was in acres of space in the box, but Westwood denied him with a great save.
Palace did get a third in the closing moments of the game – substitute Stuart O’Keefe with a brilliant curling effort after good work from Puncheon.
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