Wayne Rooney’s wait for a first win as manager of Birmingham continues after Blues crashed to a 3-1 defeat against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Rooney’s struggling side battled their way back into the game after conceding an early opener to the former Birmingham youngster Jobe Bellingham, with Koji Miyoshi levelling the scores towards the end of the first half. However, Sunderland were the better side for the majority of the contest and, after Dion Sanderson’s own goal restored the home side’s lead, Adil Aouchiche made the game safe with a close-range finish 14 minutes from time.
Sunderland suffered a pre-match blow when Dennis Cirkin was injured during the warm-up, necessitating the promotion of the summer signing Nectarios Triantis to the starting lineup for his first league start. The last-minute switch did not appear to disrupt the Black Cats, however, as they dominated the early stages with Nazariy Rusyn smashing an 11th-minute shot against a post after turning neatly in the area.
Six minutes later the deadlock was broken from a set piece. Jack Clarke swung in a corner from the left, Rusyn helped the ball on with a flicked header, and Bellingham volleyed home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Bellingham, the 18-year-old who is the younger brother of the England and Real Madrid star Jude, almost doubled his tally midway through the first half. Bellingham swivelled smartly after Patrick Roberts’ corner was allowed to pass deep into the penalty area but he scuffed his shot and the ball struck the same post that had been hit by Rusyn a few minutes earlier.
Birmingham were struggling at that stage but the visitors battled their way back into things and gradually began to create chances of their own. Niall Huggins hacked off his own goal-line to prevent Jay Stansfield from bundling home, but the home defence was breached on the half-hour. Pierre Ekwah conceded possession and, after Stansfield crossed from the right, no one tracked the run of Miyoshi, who swept home a clinical first-time finish.
With the game remaining extremely open, chances continued to flow in the second half. A brilliant last-ditch tackle from the Birmingham defender Emanuel Aiwu prevented Rusyn getting a shot away but the weight of Sunderland’s pressure told as they regained the lead just before the hour.
A short-corner routine ended with Roberts crossing from the right, with the full-back Trai Hume keeping the ball alive at the back post as he looped a header over John Ruddy in Birmigham’s goal. Triantis slid in with Aiwu on the goalline, and after a series of ricochets, the final touch appeared to come off Sanderson before the ball ended up in the back of the net.
Sunderland made the game safe with 14 minutes left as Clarke did brilliantly to create space to slide over a low cross from the left, with the substitute Aouchiche breaking ahead of his marker to turn home from close range.