Sunderland 2 Blackburn Rovers 1
Two goals from Kenwyne Jones emphasised that Sunderland possess a forward line equipped to trouble the best of Premier League defences.
Jones has been one of the extras as Darren Bent, the £10m signing from Tottenham, dominated the stage with goals in the opening two games. But the Trinidad & Tobago international overshadowed Bent yesterday with two crisply-taken goals.
Blackburn took the lead through Gaël Givet in the 21st minute and had two goals disallowed before a hectic finale when Benni McCarthy hit the bar and Nikola Kalinic wasted an opportunity a £6m striker should take.
Even Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, acknowledged their good fortune. "We rode our luck today. We should have been out of sight after the first half. We simply couldn't cope with Blackburn in the first half and being level at half-time was good for us. We improved in the second half and dealt with them a lot better."
The difference between the sides was the quality of Jones' finishing, notably in the 32nd minute when Chris Samba's error enabled him to accelerate on to a through ball from Steed Malbranque and whip the ball round the onrushing Paul Robinson. The winner in the 53rd minute was much simpler, but his close-range header was only possible because of a superb cross by the excellent Lee Cattermole at the end of a break down the left.
Bruce said: "I always believe when you have somebody capable of scoring goals you are in with a shout. We haven't had many chances but he got the first goal individually and the second came from the best move of the match. It was a good performance by Kenwyne, who is a big physical threat in both boxes. It will take time, but it looks like the two strikers want to complement each other."
Bruce's acceptance that Sunderland were fortunate was no consolation for Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce, who was particularly upset over a Jason Roberts goal disallowed after four minutes. He said: "It was a bizarre decision by Alan Wiley. I've reviewed it from several angles and if it's an infringement there would be 20 penalties given in every game. We got a goal we deserved and I thought we would build from there, but sloppy defending gave them a chance. We can't control ref's decision but can control our own defending."
Full-back Stephen Warnock is on the verge of a move to Aston Villa after being left out of the Blackburn side. Allardyce said: "He's at home. He is struggling to focus and mentally not able to play."