Sunderland 2-1 Charlton
Sunderland’s first game of the new season ended with the best result possible as a last minute Lynden Gooch header secured all three points for The Lads.
A nervous first half was followed by a much more assured second half performance as Jack Ross’ first competitive game in charge ended with a win.
Here’s how the action unfolded.
A shrill blast of the referee’s whistle signalled Sunderland’s first game in England’s third division for over three decades.
Sunderland showed some nice movement on the left early on as Maguire, Gooch and Matthews worked space and forced a corner. Fans roared on voraciously, desperate to see the club’s new era begin with success. Nothing came from the set-piece, however, and a warning shot was fired across Sunderland’s bows as Charlton looked sharp on the break with the pace of Grant and Taylor a real worry.
A few minutes later that threat was fully realized as, just before the ten minute mark, Loovens was turned far too easily by Karlan Grant leaving Chris Maguire to bring down the onrushing Charlton forward. Lyle Taylor stepped up to confidently dispatch the penalty - Sunderland’s defence left reeling from a winding blow to their early hopes.
One issue that became very apparent as the half wore on was Sunderland’s central defensive partnership of Ozturk and Loovens. Misplaced passes, a lack of pace, and poor positioning gave Charlton confidence on the break. The midfield trio of Honeyman, Mumba, and O’Nien were also found wanting positionally at times. Darren Pratley capitalized on Sunderland’s nervousness finding space after the twenty-five minute mark, but his shot was parried away by McLaughlin.
Charlton continued to look dangerous on the counter as their high pressing system forced Sunderland into yielding possession. Lyle Taylor found dangerous positions on several occasions as the half wore on, but thankfully for Sunderland the linesman’s flag came to the rescue.
The 41st minute saw Sunderland register their first shot on target as a drive from Oviedo was held comfortably by Charlton’s number one. That intent sparked Sunderland into life, though, and after several good minutes Josh Maja found himself with a golden chance to level the scores.
A misplaced strike from the sprightly Maguire found Maja at the back post, but momentary hesitation prevented the forward from finishing first time. Instead, a touch was taken and the opportunity squandered as the onrushing Charlton keeper was able to block Maja’s scuffed shot.
Not exactly the half Sunderland fans had in mind.
Half time: Sunderland 0-1 Charlton Athletic
Jerome Sinclair replaced Luke O’Nien - who looked nervous on debut - as Jack Ross changed Sunderland’s shape at the break. Mumba continued to look impressive, and Sunderland started the half brightly with several good passages of play. Quality in the final third was missing, though.
A nasty clash of heads between Jerome Sinclair and the Charlton centre-half drew blood and paused the game for a while. Upon resumption, uncertainty continued to creep through the Sunderland defence.
All was forgiven, however, in the 64th minute as Josh Maja turned his man just inside the 18 yard box before firing a low, left-footed strike past the hapless Charlton keeper into the bottom corner. All even. The first goal of Jack Ross’ reign.
The following minutes were somewhat stagnant, until Lynden Gooch won a free-kick following a clever turn and drive. Up stepped Chris Maguire, and his wonderfully weighted strike was somehow clawed away by Charlton’s keeper. Sunderland picked up the loose ball, and Josh Maja then headed straight down the goalie’s throat. The tide had turned.
Jerome Sinclair’s introduction had made a real difference to the side - he was a menace throughout, despite doing his best Quasimodo impersonation. He nearly grabbed the winner in the 83rd minute as the impressive Oviedo flashed a ball into the box only for Sinclair to poke wide of the Charlton right-hand post.
A lengthy injury to Pearce brought six minutes of added time during which Sinclair succumbed to injury - Luke Molyneux his replacement.
A spate of corners in the final few minutes drew optimism from the fanbase and that was duly rewarded in the final moments of the game. After Gooch missed the cutback from a Maguire corner, Oviedo whipped a delicious ball into the back post where Gooch powered a fantastic header home. Cue euphoria in the stands - Sunderland had snatched the winner!
Full time: Sunderland 2-1 Charlton
Jon McLaughlin, 6/10: Was unlucky with the penalty. Looked assured otherwise.
Don Love, 5/10: Pretty poor before he left the field through injury.
Alim Ozturk, 3/10: Struggled badly. Looks slow.
Glenn Loovens, 7/10: Read everything well and was doing two jobs most of the time.
Adam Matthews 5/10: Looked off the pace and was too casual at times on the ball.
Bali Mumba, 8/10: Outstanding. Cannot believe that he is 16 year old.
Luke O’Nien, 5/10: Struggled and maybe tried a bit too hard.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Seemed to enjoy his role as a leader on the pitch. Probably played deeper than he might have liked.
Lynden Gooch, 8/10: Did well. Enjoyed some success when beating his man and will thrive with Wyke alongside him. What a goal, too!
Chris Maguire, 8/10: Very good in the second half, his deliveries were consistent and he was unlucky not to score a free kick.
Josh Maja, 7/10: Was quiet but then came up with a goal from nothing. Good strike!
Jerome Sinclair, 7/10: We really improved with him on the pitch. Constant thorn in Charlton’s side.
Bryan Oviedo, 8/10: Added balance and width to our left hand side. Improved us in the attacking third too. Class assist for the winner also.
Molyneux, 6/10: Wasn’t really on long enough.
Man of the Match: Bali Mumba.