Sunderland emerged victorious from a tense game this evening as Barnsley visited the Stadium of Light.
Racing into a three-goal lead, Sunderland came under pressure from a physical Barnsley side who clawed two goals back thanks to the ever-threatening Kieffer Moore.
Goals from McGeady, Maja and Gooch gave Sunderland the early advantage whilst a late finish from Luke O’Nien sealed the points.
Both teams started brightly, and Sunderland came close to opening the scoring on thirteen minutes after a lovely team move was ended when Josh Maja fired wide. It wasn’t long before Sunderland made it count, though. A foul on Aiden McGeady led to a penalty, which he dispatched with ease to give Sunderland the lead.
Moments later it was two - a great ball by Adam Matthews fed Josh Maja, who turned his man beautifully to curl the ball into the bottom corner.
It was almost three a minute later - another great cross found Maja unmarked, and he headed wide when it seemed easier to score. Sunderland in control.
Barnsley put several nice passages of play together, but Sunderland defended resolutely preventing the visitors from finding a clear sight on goal.
Another brilliant Sunderland break saw the Lads add a third before the break. Some great tenacious play from George Honeyman just inside the Barnsley half saw the lads ship the ball wide to Aiden McGeady; he cut inside and fed the ball to Lynden Gooch who curled a wonderful left footed striker beyond the keeper and into the top-left corner.
Barnsley hit back before the break, though. A whipped cross into the Sunderland area found Kieffer Moore who forced McLaughlin into a sharp save. However, a poor Lynden Gooch clearance gave the Barnsley forward another chance which he tucked away with ease.
After finding the net, Barnsley grew with confidence, hitting the post jut before the half time whistle. Sunderland ahead, but a nervy way to end the half.
Half-time: Sunderland 3-1 Barnsley
The second half resumed with Barnsley looking to pick up where they ended the first while Sunderland looked to exploit the visitor’s attacking intentions - a quick break allowing Aiden McGeady to flash a shot just over the Barnsley bar.
The game continued to be a frantic affair as both sides fought tooth and nail to take control of the game, with neither budging an inch.
Luke O’Nien came on for Josh Maja as Sunderland sought to wrestle control , but Barnsley found the reply they were looking for as Kieffer Moore was gifted a free header from a Barnsley corner to bag his second of the game. Sunderland left reeling.
Those inside the SoL raised the noise, looking to spur their side into action. Jon McLaughlin the man to respond with an incredible ball that seemed to go from box to box before landing at McGeady’ feet. The winger slipped by his man and flashed a wicked cross into the area, Sunderland unable to find a finishing touch.
The game continued to be a tense affair, Maguire unable to flick a long ball around the onrushing Barnsley keeper. George Honeyman found himself everywhere as he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck throwing himself into challenge after challenge before distributing well. Great stuff from the skipper who took a knock for his efforts.
After yet more tense play, Sunderland found the much-needed fourth through fan-favourite, Luke O’Nien. Sunderland, able to keep the ball on the floor, worked the ball to George Honeyman on the break, he found McGeady who squared for O’Nien to slide in and apply the finishing touch - much to the delight of the 29,000 Sunderland fans.
Full-time: Sunderland 4-2 Barnsley
Jon McLaughlin, 7/10: Solid game from the Scottish stopper. Unlucky for both goals as he made several decent saves. Solid under the high ball, too.
Reece James, 6/10: Decent display from the full-back, solid if unspectacular.
Jack Baldwin, 6/10: Made some good tackles, but struggled against Kieffer Moore.
Tom Flanagan, 6/10: Some good work in and out of possession, but also struggled against the physicality of Moore and co.
Adam Matthews, 7/10: Offensively brilliant, but Barnsley found some real success with the long diagonal in behind the Welshman.
George Honeyman, 9/10: Absolutely class. Threw himself into every tackle, and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck when we needed him to. A true captain’s performance.
Max Power, 6/10: Understandably quiet this evening. Recycled the ball effectively and defended dilligently.
Aiden McGeady, 8/10: Won the penalty, scored the penalty. Assisted Gooch. Assisted O’Nien. Class going forward. Tired, but that’s to be expected.
Lynden Gooch, 7/10: Fantastic goal and great energy. Struggled a little against a physical opponent, but a solid game.
Chris Maguire, 7/10: Great energy and some nice touches. Should have done better when able to round the keeper, but a good shift nonetheless.
Josh Maja, 7/10: Great goal, but should have had another. Clinical and held the ball up well at times despite the opposition’s physicality.
(SUB), Luke O’Nien 7/10: Great finish, and the legs we needed to take the game back to Barnsley.
(SUB), Jerome Sinclair 6/10: Pressed well, but had little time to make any real impact.
(SUB), Bryan Oviedo X/10: Not enough time to make a difference.
Man of the Match: George Honeyman.