Sunderland 3 - 1 Carlisle United
Benji Kimpioka’s first ever goal for Sunderland helped put the Mackems in pole position to qualify for the EFL Trophy as they beat Carlisle at the Stadium of Light.
Kimpioka opened the scoring with an early header only for the visitors to reply through Ashley Nadesan.
A beauty from Ethan Robson and cool finish from George Honeyman sealed the win that leaves the Black Cats top of Group A in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Carlisle nearly opened the scoring getting in down Sunderland’s right taking advantage of a big space vacated by Adam Matthews in the opening minute. Liam McCarron went through one-on-one with Robbin Ruiter who got down low to block at his near post.
Sunderland broke quickly from the following Carlisle corner, scoring with their first strike of the game. Kimpioka’s dream start to his first full appearance for the club came when he glanced on Aiden McGeady’s inviting cross. Adam Collin in the Carlisle goal got a firm hand to the header, but couldn’t keep the ball from crawling into the goal.
Despite Sunderland looking the sharper, better side after the early goal, it was Carlisle who nearly drew level in the 20th minute. Jerry Yates great skill and turn earned United a dangerous free-kick 25 yards out, when Jack Baldwin swiped at him. From the resulting free-kick Macaulay Gillesphey curled narrowly wide, Ruiter didn’t move, with many Carlisle fans mistakenly thinking the ball had nestled in the top corner.
Minutes later and the scores were tied.
Sunderland were punished for their one consistent weakness in the first-half, leaving too much space behind their full-backs. A simple ball over the top put Nadesan through on goal and he finished decisively across goal past Ruiter.
At 1-1 the game was far more open with both sides seeing plenty of the ball. The next clear effort fell to Adam Matthews who squandered a great chance from close range. The Wales international was able to run unopposed straight into the Carlisle area. His shot was straight down the throat of Collin who parried away.
Then, from seemingly nowhere, Robson scored a stunner. George Honeyman’s speculative effort was blocked and fell nicely to the holding midfielder. Robson’s instinctive finish was sensational. On the half-volley, from 20 yards, his drilled effort flew into the bottom corner.
Yet more lapse defending lead to another chance for the visitors. Nobody tracked Adam Campbell’s run from midfield and the ex-Newcastle forward’s half-volley rolled just wide from a tight angle.
Half Time: Sunderland 2 - 1 Carlisle
Sunderland had the first chance of a much more cagey opening to the second-half when Kimpioka nearly scored another header. He rose highest from a Honeyman cross, but saw his effort superbly parried away from point-blank range.
Minutes later Sunderland did double their lead through Honeyman. Our captain’s perfectly timed run beat the Carlisle offside trap and the skipper slotted home completely unchallenged. He was picked out by an audacious outside of the boot ball over the top from Adam Matthews. Brilliant play from the Welshman.
Kimpioka had two further efforts as Carlisle’s resistance began to fade halfway through the second period, neither troubling the keeper too much.
Youngsters Jack Diamond and Lee Connelly were given a chance to impress and both nearly scored; Diamond in particular looked very bright when in possession.
Sunderland eased into full-time with a solid, convincing win in the bag.
Full Time: Sunderland 3 - 1 Carlisle
Robbin Ruiter, 7/10: Produced a majestic Cruyff-turn and one impressive save early, a quiet night for the Dutchman otherwise.
Adam Matthews, 7/10: Starting to look like himself again, after a substandard September.
Jack Baldwin, 6/10: Poor in the first-half, much more assured in helping Sunderland dominate the second.
Alim Ozturk, 6/10: Like Baldwin, nowhere near sharp enough in the first half, also improved as the game wore on.
Reece James, 7/10: One of his best showings in red and white, arguably the most threatening he’s ever looked for Sunderland.
Ethan Robson, 7/10: Scored an absolute beauty, put in a couple of his trademark ferocious tackles too, disappointing that his night was cut short through injury.
Dylan McGeouch, 6/10: Kept possession and broke up play a few times, still looks backwards far too often when on the ball.
George Honeyman, 7/10: Took his goal brilliantly and caused United problems all night, only knock on him was a failure to always punish the visitors with his final ball.
Aiden McGeady, 7/10: Tormented Carlisle throughout, his final delivery was inconsistent and he took some awful shots, but opposition defenders always look terrified of him.
Chris Maguire, 7/10: Continues to ooze quality, Sunderland’s best player in the first-half, tailed off towards the end.
Benjamin Kimpioka, 7/10: Can you ask for anything more than a goal on your first start?! A great moment for the teenager who could have had more.
(SUB) Luke O’Nien, 5/10: Another unconvincing display.
(SUB) Jack Diamond, 7/10: Played with a real swagger in his brief cameo, nearly bagged a debut goal too.
(SUB) Lee Connelly, N/A/10: Came on very late on, a great moment for the youngster nonetheless - could have scored, too!
Man of the Match: Benji Kimpioka.