Martin O’Neill made a dramatic winning start to his Sunderland career as Sebastian Larsson curled home a 92nd minute free kick to add further pressure on Steve Kean.
Only days into O’Neill’s appointment and Sunderland have picked up their first Premier League win in six attempts at the expense of Blackburn Rovers.
The visitors were keen to show up the former-Aston Villa manager on his debut when they broke the deadlock inside 20 minutes. Chris Samba was able to pick up a uncontested long ball on the edge of the Sunderland penalty area before his fiercely struck effort was palmed onto the head of Simon Vukcevic by goalkeeper Kieren Westwood.
Blackburn appeared to have doubled their lead in the first half when Scott Dann headed home from close range, only for referee Peter Walton to disallow his effort, claiming Chris Samba had fouled the goalkeeper in the build up. TV replays could not support his case.
Rovers lost both Gael Givet midway through the first half, Martin Olsson at half time, Michel Salgado just after half time and then Jason Lowe in stoppage time, all through injuries to add to Steve Kean’s list of problems.
However, it was the Glasgow-born manager who allowed Martin O’Neill’s side to come back into the game at half time. After starting the game positively, his second half tactics were to sit on the 1-0 lead they had. Yakubu seemed to be the only player in the Sunderland half in the second half, and he was not the player to chase down long balls or put the opposition under pressure inside their own half.
Sunderland kept trying and trying before a wonder strike from David Vaughan 6 minutes from time looked to earn the home side a point.
With the crowd behind them and Blackburn on the back foot, Sunderland pressed for a late winner and got it two minutes into stoppage time when Sebastian Larsson perfectly executed his free kick from the left hands side of the penalty area, into the bottom corner.
It’s a dramatic start for Martin O’Neill, but there are going to be tougher days ahead than playing the side 19th in the table.
Sunderland go to Tottenham next, then to Queens Park Rangers before hosting Everton on Boxing day.