Michael Beale’s first game as Sunderland head coach ended in disappointment as his side were beaten 3-0 by Coventry at the Stadium of Light.
Beale was confirmed as Tony Mowbray’s successor on Monday, but his maiden outing in charge of his new club did not go to plan as Coventry swept to an emphatic success.
Tatsuhiro Sakamoto opened the scoring for Mark Robins’ side in first-half stoppage time, with Callum O’Hare and Kasey Palmer also finding the net in the second half.
Coventry’s win means they have now lost just one of their last eight matches, and while the Sky Blues might have started the season slowly after losing both Viktor Gyokeres and Gustavo Hamer in the summer, they look increasingly well set for another tilt at the play-offs.
That will also be Sunderland’s ambition, although Beale’s side will have to improve markedly if the former Rangers and QPR boss is to build on Mowbray’s good work over the course of the last 15 months.
Beale made one change for his first game in charge, restoring Jobe Bellingham to the starting line-up. The teenager had a famous face watching him from the stands, with his brother, Jude, observing from the directors’ box after returning to England at the start of Real Madrid’s winter break.
Jobe was stationed as an attacking midfielder, with Abdoullah Ba playing ahead of him as a false number nine, and the latter should have opened the scoring in the 20th minute.
Coventry goalkeeper Brad Collins could only parry Jack Clarke’s shot from just outside the area, with the ball rebounding invitingly for Ba, who was unmarked 10 yards out. The 20-year-old looked certain to score, but instead skied a poor effort over the crossbar.
Sunderland were on top at that stage, but the hosts were indebted to their goalkeeper, Anthony Patterson, for a fine double save from Haji Wright and O’Hare that kept the scoresheet blank midway through the first half.
However, the Sunderland goalkeeper was beaten as Coventry took the lead just before the break. O’Hare delivered a low cross after Luke O’Nien’s error enabled him to break down the left-hand side, and while Sakamoto’s initial shot was saved at the back post, the ball rebounded back off the Japanese midfielder and into the net.
Clarke twice went close to claiming an equaliser at the start of the second half, firing in shots that were saved by Collins, and Bellingham also saw an effort blocked close to the goalline as Sunderland tried to crank up the pressure.
Coventry remained a significant threat on the break though, and the visitors doubled their lead in the 67th minute. Wright pulled the ball back from close to the byline, and O’Hare curled a clinical finish into the far corner.
The second goal was the cue for a section of the Stadium of Light support to begin chanting Mowbray’s name, and the singing became louder when Coventry added a third goal three minutes later.
Patterson failed to hold on to a low cross from the left, and substitute Palmer was left with the simple task of rolling home from close range.
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