A single goal from Patrick Van Aanholt was enough to book Sunderland’s place in the next round as a potential upset was avoided at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland started the game brightly with the front three looking lively, and it was Giaccherini who forced the first save of the afternoon on 12 mins. The Italian turned Berardi inside out before forcing Silvestri into parrying the ball out for a corner. From the resulting corner Alvarez picked up the ball, evaded a challenge and shot but he saw his deflected effort clip the crossbar.
Sunderland were completely dominant with Van Aanholt in particular looking a threat down the left as he continued to torment the Leeds defence in the early stages. The Black Cats opened up Leeds again on 20 mins as Gomez slid Van Aanholt in down the left, his cross found Fletcher six yards from goal but the striker couldn’t keep his shot down.
Everything was going through Van Aanholt as Leeds were struggling to contain the Dutch full back and it was him who forced the corner for Sunderland's next chance on 27 mins. The corner was swung in by Alvarez and was met by the towering Vergini who headed the ball towards goal but it was cleared off the line by Casper Sloth as Leeds rode their luck in the early stages.
But their luck finally ran out on 32 mins as Sunderland were rewarded for their constant pressure with the opening goal. After a good period of possession the ball found its way to Steven Fletcher who laid the ball off to Van Aanholt on the left side, and with no players in the box the full back drove into the area and smashed the ball into the far corner. An excellent team move capped off by Van Aanholt who was easily the best player on the pitch.
Sunderland found it difficult to capitalise on the opening goal as the half came to a close with Leeds getting organised in defence, although Sunderland continued to dominate possession.
Leeds came out like a different team at the start of the second half and should have been level within 30 seconds of the restart. Adryan was fed through one on one with Pantilimon but the big Romanian stood up well to deny him.
It was all Leeds as they had Sunderland pinned back and the Black Cats had to rely on Pantilimon again to keep the score 1-0 as he saved well at the near post to deny Montenegro an equaliser. And soon after Leeds got in behind again, this time it was Sloth who played the ball across the face of goal but luckily for Sunderland it went through legs instead of going in the net.
After seeing out the early pressure from Leeds, Sunderland thought they had doubled their lead on 58 mins as Fletcher fired home after receiving a pass from Gomez but he was adjudged to have been offside after a late flag.
Another opportunity went begging a minute later. Van Aanholt burst down the left flank and cut into the box before teeing up Giaccherini whose shot from the edge of the box was well held by Silvestri.
The game evened out but Sunderland could have gone two in front on 69 mins after Antenucci was dispossessed by Wickham, he cut the ball back for Fletcher whose curling effort was tipped round the post by Silvestri. Moments later Fletcher had another chance to kill the game but he fired wide after beating Cooper to the loose ball.
Sunderland hearts were in their mouths two minutes into added time when Liam Cooper’s header bounced back off the post but Sunderland managed to hang on to the win to ensure they progressed to the next round.
Sunderland (4-3-3): Pantilimon, Vergini, Coates, O’Shea (c), Van Aanholt, Bridcutt, Rodwell (Larsson 37’), Gomez, Alvarez (Wickham 46’), Giaccherini (Johnson 73’), Fletcher.
Subs: Stryjek, Robson, Beadling, Larsson, Johnson, Buckley, Wickham
Goals: Van Aanholt 32’
Leeds (4-4-2): Silvestri, Berardi, Cooper (c), Del Fabro, C Taylor, Austin, Murphy, Sloth, Adryan (Sharp 61’), Antenucci, Montenegro (Doukara 84’).
Subs: S Taylor, Killock, Thompson, Phillips, Dawson, Sharp, Doukara.