McClean stars for impressive Sunderland
Wigan 1 Sunderland 4:James McClean continued the dream start to his Premier League career as the former Derry City winger scored his first goal for Sunderland in just his second start as Martin O’Neill’s side thrashed Wigan 4-1 at the DW Stadium.
The 22-year-old made his first appearance in Sunday’s stunning win over league leaders Manchester City and capped a fine all-round display with the Black Cats’ second tonight.
The former Northern Ireland Under-21 international from the Creggan in Derry turned down an invitation from former manager Nigel Worthington to take part in the senior squad for the Euro 2012 qualifier against the Faroe Islands last August, and declared for the Republic.
And if he can keep up his level of performances through to the end of the season, he may yet make Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad for next summer’s European Championships.
McClean also played his part in a decent opening in the 27th minute when a quick break ended with the winger sending in a lovely cross along the six-yard line that Nicklas Bendtner was just unable to turn in.
The wind then played a major role as, having been on the back foot nearly all half and with injury time almost up, Sunderland took the lead.
Referee Mike Dean ruled Bendtner had been fouled by Ben Watson 30 yards out despite howls of protest from the home fans and Gardner’s swirling free-kick found the top corner with Ali Al Habsi rooted to the spot.
There was a scrappy start to the second half, which suited Sunderland just fine, and the evening got even better for the visitors in the 55th minute when they doubled their lead.
Vaughan picked out 22-year-old McClean, just onside in the middle of the box, and, although Al Habsi produced a good save from his first header, the goalkeeper could do nothing about the follow-up.
It was a first goal for McClean on his fifth Sunderland appearance and made it nine different scorers for the nine goals netted under O’Neill.
Their two-goal advantage lasted only seven minutes, though, and for once it was Wigan who had the stroke of fortune. Hugo Rodallega’s turn on the edge of the box was sharp but his shot only beat Simon Mignolet with the help of a big deflection off Matt Kilgallon.
Wigan’s hopes of taking something were surely extinguished in the 73rd minute, though, when Bendtner got away from Mayor Figueroa down the right and crossed for Stephane Sessegnon to convert.
Sunderland were having one of those nights and with 10 minutes to go a Sessegnon shot hit Alcaraz and rebounded to Vaughan 20 yards out who blasted a strike of the highest quality into the top corner to make it 13 points from six games for O’Neill.