Wigan 1-4 Sunderland

By Arindam RejBBC Sport
Sunderland players
Craig Gardner's brilliant free-kick sent Sunderland on the way to victory

Sunderland moved into the top half of the Premier League as Martin O'Neill's brilliant start as manager continued with an impressive win at Wigan.

Craig Gardner struck Sunderland's first with a 30-yard free-kick then James McClean nodded in a close-range second.

Wigan struck back when Hugo Rodallega fired in a deflected, 20-yard shot.

But Nicklas Bendtner crossed for Stephane Sessegnon to slide in Sunderland's third from six yards, and David Vaughan lashed in a fourth.

O'Neill proud of Sunderland's 'best win'

The result took O'Neill's points tally to 13 from six matches and meant Wigan remained in the relegation zone.

Roberto Martinez's team may find it a struggle to get out of there too if they keep trying to play as much pretty football as they did against Sunderland.

Although the Latics' attempts to pass and move were admirable, they always looked vulnerable on the counter-attack and were frequently exposed.

They were left to rue hitting the post twice in the first half with the match goalless - when they were well on top - and will no doubt point to the controversial free-kick awarded just before half-time that led to Sunderland's opener as a key moment.

In fact, the home team had started confidently, a Steve Gohouri strike being cleared off the line by Gardner after Sunderland failed to clear a corner.

But Sunderland also came close as Kieran Richardson broke quickly, picking out McClean on his left, with Bendtner sliding in at the resultant cross but just failing to get the necessary touch.

Wigan's ill fortune began just after the half-hour.

Albert Crusat - who was impressive until forced into an early exit with a back injury - played in David Jones, whose strike from eight yards came back off the far post. Following up, Ben Watson tried his luck from 12 yards only to hit the other post.

It got worse as Watson was controversially adjudged to have fouled Bendtner, allowing Gardner to power in his superb free-kick.

After the break, Jones gave the ball away in a dangerous area, allowing Richardson to find Vaughan.

The former Blackpool midfielder crossed and McClean's initial tame header was saved, but came back to him to score on the rebound.

Cruel day for Roberto Martinez as Wigan lose 4-1 to Sunderland

Wigan quickly - and deservedly - got back in the game as James McCarthy found Rodallega before the striker turned on the edge of the box, evading John O'Shea, and struck.

But hopes of a fightback faded when Maynor Figueroa was brushed aside by Bendtner, who delivered a perfect ball across the face of goal that was met by a stretching Sessegnon.

The Sunderland pressure continued as McClean curled in a shot from the left-hand edge of the 18-yard box that Ali Al-Habsi saved smartly.

But they killed the game off when McClean's shot was charged down and ran loose to Vaughan, who smashed in from outside the area to complete an emphatic victory.

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