Match Report vs Sunderland

17 February 1998 (Division One)
Sunderland 4 READING 1

Team: Bibbo, Booty, Davies, Primus, Swales, Parkie, Houghton, Hodges, Bowen, Asaba, Morley.

Attendance: 40,500

Report from The Times' David Maddock:

THE opponents may have been the same, but little else was constant from Sunderland's last meeting with Reading. Back in October, they conceded four goals at Elm Park. Last night, they scored four in a compelling performance before the biggest Football League crowd since the split with the FA Premier League in 1992.

More than 40,000 supporters at the Stadium of Light thrilled at a display of swift passing, led by Kevin Phillips who, with two goals, took his total for the season to 21. Since that defeat, Sunderland have lost one league match in 20, suggesting that they are heading back into the FA Carling Premiership.

"They are a big club who deserve to be in the top division. They were just too good for us," Terry Bullivant, the Reading manager, said afterwards. "The three sides at the top of the division are a long way ahead of the rest of us."

That much was evident as Sunderland scored almost at will. Quinn led the line superbly, aided by the movement of Phillips, and they had too much class for their journeymen opponents. They have scored 12 goals in their past three home matches, and Peter Reid, the manager, said: "I enjoy watching us when we are like that."

Quinn began the rout with a deft header after 22 minutes. Finding Johnston on the left, the centre forward galloped into the penalty area to convert the winger's deep cross.

A minute later, the game was effectively over. This time it was Gray who crossed and Rae claimed the final touch after a tussle with Swales as the ball squirmedinto the net.

Reading's chances were confined to Houghton's clever run and curling shot and an Asaba shot that was well saved by Perez. They did pull a goal back after 54 minutes, when Bowen lifted the ball into an empty net after a foolish dash from his line by Perez.

However, Sunderland were simply too strong and Phillips added to his growing reputation with two second-half goals. He darted between ball-watching defenders for his first, after 47 minutes, and latched on to a mistake from Primus for his second 15 minutes later.

SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): L Perez - D Holloway, J Craddock, R Ord, M Gray - A Rae, L Clark, K Ball, A Johnston - K Phillips, N Quinn (sub: D Dichio, 81min).

READING (4-4-2): S Bibbo - M Booty, G Davies, L Primus, S Swales - J Bowen, P Parkinson, R Houghton, L Hodges - C Asaba, T Morley.

Referee: J Kirkby.

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