Defoe beauty gives Sunderland derby delight

Jason Mellor
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Sunderland's striker Jermain Defoe (2nd L) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the match between Sunderland and Newcastle United in Sunderland on April 5, 2015

Sunderland's striker Jermain Defoe (2nd L) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the match between Sunderland and Newcastle United in Sunderland on April 5, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ian MacNicol)

Sunderland (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Jermain Defoe eased Sunderland's Premier League relegation worries as his superb first-half strike earned his side a record fifth successive win over their derby rivals Newcastle United on Sunday.

Defoe lashed home a first-time volley on the stroke of half-time to secure a 1-0 victory that lifted Sunderland three points clear of the relegation zone with seven games remaining.

The win was Dick Advocaat's first success since replacing Gus Poyet as Sunderland head coach last month and continued a remarkable run of success over Newcastle, who were second-best throughout.

John Carver's side recorded just one shot on target all afternoon as they slipped to a fifth successive defeat at the hands of Sunderland for the first time in their history.

With Burnley's 0-0 draw against Tottenham Hotspur having pulled the Black Cats to within goal difference of the bottom three at kick-off, there was a pressing need for the home side to start with positive intent.

Their previous home game against Aston Villa had seen them trailing by four goals at the interval, but their first-half display some three weeks on could hardly have been more different.

Brimming with pace and purpose from the off, Sunderland were the dominant side throughout the opening period, and while it took until the final moments of the half before they were able to make their superiority count, it was a lead they richly deserved.

Billy Jones's drive across the face of goal from Sebastian Larsson's seventh-minute corner forced the recalled Jonas Gutierrez into a stabbed clearance over his own crossbar, before another set-piece ended with Jack Colback nudging Connor Wickham's header off the line.

- Perez isolated -

Wickham went close again five minutes before the interval, drilling in a near-post strike that Tim Krul gathered, before the deadlock was finally broken in first-half stoppage time.

It was an exquisite goal, with Steven Fletcher cushioning a long ball from goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon into Defoe's path and the England international dispatching a magnificent, dipping volley into the top-right corner of the net from 25 yards.

Newcastle were still to fashion their first chance of the afternoon at that stage, and for all that Carver had talked about matching Sunderland's intensity in the build-up to the game, the visitors were lethargic and devoid of ideas from the outset.

The ploy of fielding Jack Colback at left-back deprived Newcastle of one of their most potent midfield assets, and Ayoze Perez found himself completely isolated in his lone striker role.

Colback flashed a low shot wide at the start of the second half, but Sunderland's superiority was never really tested and the hosts would have extended their lead shortly after the interval had Fletcher displayed a little more composure when he volleyed Jordi Gomez's cross weakly at Krul.

Fletcher, who scored a hat-trick for Scotland last week, looped a header straight at Krul on the hour mark, and wasted a glorious opportunity to make the game safe shortly after when he stepped inside Mike Williamson in the area, only to curl a wasteful shot well over the crossbar.

Newcastle finally recorded their first shot on target with 12 minutes left, Remy Cabella curling in a strike that was parried by Pantilimon.

And Perez spurned his side's best chance with two minutes remaining as he volleyed over from eight yards after Daryl Janmaat flicked on Ryan Taylor's corner.