Sunderland 0-4 Southampton
A familiar name haunted Sunderland as the Stadium of Light as Manolo Gabbiadini stole the show.
The Italian was unstoppable during the opening 45 minutes and opened the scoring on the half-hour mark, showing hunger and determination to connect with Ryan Bertrand’s cross and steer it in at the near post.
And as the clock ticked into added time he delivered a knockout blow, turning in the box and firing the ball beyond Vito Mannone to floor the Black Cats on the stroke of half-time.
Sunderland battled in the second period but they were blunt in attack and failed to force Fraser Forster into a meaningful save, with a late Jason Denayer own goal summing up an afternoon to forget.
But the Saints weren’t done there, with Shane Long slotting the ball home in added time to complete the scoring.
David Moyes made one change ahead of the game with Darron Gibson replacing the injured Jack Rodwell, with John O’Shea and Jermain Defoe fit to face Claude Puel’s side.
And Gibson – making his first start at the club – enjoyed a confident start to his time on Wearside, bossing the midfield and seeing a number of incisive passes test the visiting defence early on.
The first chance fell at the feet of Adnan Januzaj who controlled beautifully before seeing an effort blocked, and it sparked a flurry of opportunities as Jermain Defoe stabbed the ball wide from close range soon after.
Gabbiadini remained a threat on the break as Saints absorbed the pressure and the Black Cats bossed the ball, but when he broke through the Italian was thwarted by Denayer who produced a vital interception.
Signed from Napoli in January, Gabbiadini broke the offside trap with 24 minutes played and he forced compatriot Mannone into no man’s land before slotting the ball into the danger area, but after timing his run to perfection Soares Cedric fired high and wide.
Six minutes later, the Italian showed his team-mate how it’s done.
England international Ryan Bertrand fashioned the chance, charging down the left before lashing a cross towards the near post where Gabbiadini powered it beyond Mannone and into the net.
And five minutes later the frontman was flying through on goal in search of his second, but Mannone stood to tall to make the save before an offside flag halted the attack.
Sunderland fought their way back into the contest but on the stroke of half-time they were dealt a sucker punch as Gabbiadini fired his second beyond Mannone.
The Italian was afforded time and space in the box and took full advantage, turning on a sixpence before slamming the ball into the corner to hand the Black Cats a mountain to climb.
Steven Pienaar was introduced at the break as John O’Shea was replaced, with Fabio Borini entering the fray before the hour mark as Moyes attempted to turn the tide.
But it wasn’t to be, with James Ward-Prowse peppering the Sunderland backline with numerous efforts from range as Southampton strived to add to their tally.
Shane Long replaced Gabbiadini, who proved to the match-winner, during the latter stages and he forced Mannone into a smart save, with Denayer’s own goal and Long’s late strike completing the scoring.
Back to the drawing board.
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, Oviedo, Denayer, Larsson (Borini 58), O’Shea (Pienaar 45), Ndong, Defoe, Kone, Gibson (Khazri 80), Januzaj.
Subs not used: Mika, Lescott, Manquillo, Honeyman.
Southampton: Forster, Cedric, Yoshida, Davis, Tadic (Hojdjerg 82), Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Gabbiadini (Long 73), Bertrand, Redmond, Stephens.
Subs not used: Hassen, Gardos, Rodriguez, Sims, McQueen.