Sunderland move into top six
Darren Bent continued his resurgence as he claimed a double to help Sunderland to a comprehensive victory over Hull City. The former Tottenham Hotspur striker, who endured a miserable spell at White Hart Lane, took his tally for his new club to four with a 13th-minute penalty and a 66th-minute solo effort as the Mackems eased past the Tigers.
He was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by Kenwyne Jones with 16 minutes remaining with three more points safely banked. Steve Bruce's men always had too much for the visitors, who had got themselves back into the game with Kamil Zayatte's 43rd-minute header. But Andy Reid's 49th-minute strike set the stage for Bent to cement the win, and Michael Turner, making his debut against the side who sold him to Sunderland, forced Zayatte to put through his own net for the fourth 14 minutes from time to rub salt into Hull's wounds.
The home fans among a crowd of 38,997 headed home eagerly anticipating matches with promoted Burnley and Wolves in their side's next two league outings, while the visitors left contemplating a long, tough winter. For much of the first half, Hull looked like a side who had sold their best defender and Sunderland like one who had invested £36m in another summer spending spree.
Despite the best efforts of Seyi Olofinjana in the middle of the field, the visitors had no cutting edge, while Sunderland repeatedly looked a threat with Bent and Fraizer Campbell, who had both been on Phil Brown's summer shopping list, stretching them at regular intervals. It took the home side just 13 minutes to get their noses in front, and they did so quite literally with a helping hand from the visitors.
Just what possessed striker Craig Fagan, back inside his own penalty area to help defend a corner, to handle Reid's ball in, only he will know. Referee Martin Atkinson had no option but to point to the spot and Bent duly obliged, blasting low to goalkeeper Boaz Myhill's right.
Brazilian Geovanni had earlier prompted Craig Gordon to tip away his speculative 30-yard effort, but Hull were creating little threat as Fagan was too often left isolated. Turner, playing against the club he left in a £6m switch to the Stadium of Light at the end of the transfer window, headed away a series of high balls with consummate ease, and Sunderland rarely looked to be in any trouble.
However, they endured an uncomfortable conclusion to the first half with Zayatte heading straight at Gordon from Stephen Hunt's free-kick, and then looping another effort over the bar from an Ibrahima Sonko long throw. But worse was to come with two minutes of the half remaining.
Bruce had opted to play midfielder Kieran Richardson at left-back in the absence of the injured George McCartney, and it was down his flank that Hull got their chance after Anton Ferdinand fouled Fagan. Gordon flapped at Geovanni's free-kick and, from the resulting corner, Zayatte headed Kamel Ghilas' cross home to level.
Brown danced on to the pitch in celebration, but he had his head in his hands minutes later when Fagan headed an inviting cross tamely at Gordon. But order was restored within four minutes of the restart when the home side force their way in front once again.
Myhill had already taken the ball off Campbell's toe after Bent had broken free from Steed Malbranque's through-ball when Andy Dawson survived concerted penalty appeals for his 49th-minute challenge on the former Spurs man. However, the Tigers could simply not force their way out of their own penalty area and when the ball fell to Reid's left foot, he dispatched beyond the keeper with venom to make it 2-1.
Brown opted for change with 58 minutes gone when he handed a debut to former Celtic striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, and he then sent on Jozy Altidore for Ghilas six minutes later, but the momentum was firmly with the Wearsiders.
The game was effectively over with 66 minutes gone, as Hull once again contributed to their own downfall. Ferdinand's ball over the top found Bent in acres of space and, as the blue shirts inexplicably backed away from him, the striker ran in on goal to beat the stranded Myhill from point-blank range.
The agony increased for the visitors when Turner forced Zayatte to put through his own net from Reid's corner with 14 minutes remaining to ensure a miserable trip back to East Yorkshire.