Soccer

Blackburn rout Sunderland to boost survival hopes

Sammie Szmodics bagged a brace for Rovers.

Sammie Szmodics was on target again
Sammie Szmodics Sammie Szmodics was on target again (Tim Markland/PA)

John Eustace’s wait for a win as Blackburn boss came to an end in emphatic fashion as relegation-threatened Rovers hammered Sunderland 5-1 at the Stadium of Light.

The Championship’s top scorer Sammie Szmodics set Blackburn on their way with a quickfire first half double – his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season – before strikes from Ryan Hedges and Tyrhys Dolan early in the second half wrapped up the points.

Chris Rigg came off the bench to score a consolation for Sunderland 13 minutes from time but Blackburn added a fifth four minutes later through substitute Andrew Moran.

After seven draws and two defeats from his first nine games in charge, Eustace’s first win lifts Rovers five points clear of the relegation zone.

Sunderland ended a seven-match winless run at Cardiff on Good Friday but failed to build on that victory and were booed off at half-time and full-time.

Eustace was dealt a blow early on when left-back Harry Pickering suffered an injury and had to be replaced by Ben Chrisene, but Rovers steadily got a grip, started to impose themselves and broke the deadlock just before the half-hour mark.

Patrick Roberts, making his first start after a two-month lay-off with a hamstring injury, slipped in his own half and Blackburn made the winger pay. Dolan played a neat one-two with Chrisene before sliding in Szmodics, whose crisp finished flashed low past Anthony Patterson and into the bottom corner.

Just seven minutes later, Szmodics scored his and Blackburn’s second, turning in Joe Rankin-Costello’s cut-back from six yards out after good play again from Dolan in the build-up.

It could have got even better for Blackburn, with Rankin-Costello forcing a good save out of Patterson. Sunderland desperately needed the half-time whistle and were booed off by the home supporters at the break.

And plenty of the home fans were heading for the exits early after Blackburn added two more goals to put the game out of sight within 10 minutes of the restart.

Hedges started and finished the move for the third, winning possession with a tackle inside his own half before receiving the ball back off Sam Gallagher and finishing calmly from inside the box.

The fourth came just seven minutes later when Dan Neil lost possession and Dolan’s clinical finish went in off the post.

Black Cats boss Mike Dodds immediately turned to his bench and made a triple change, with star forward Jack Clarke one of those introduced alongside Rigg and former Blackburn attacker Bradley Dack.

When Dack’s header was saved on 77 minutes, Rigg was on hand to tap home the equaliser, but Blackburn responded and Moran wrapped up the scoring after a miscued finish from Szmodics.