A stoppage time header from Lynden Gooch gave Sunderland their first win on the opening day for nine years as the Jack Ross era began with a win.
Jack Ross gave debuts to five new signings as his side started in a 4-3-3 formation.
Jon McLaughlin started in goal, and new boys Alim Ozturk and Glenn Loovens were flanked by Donald Love and Adam Matthews. Sixteen-year-old Bali Mumba played just behind club captain George Honeyman and new signing Luke O’Nien. United States international Lynden Gooch and former Oxford United man Chris Maguire supported Josh Maja.
The visitors lined up in a narrow 4-4-2 formation. Dillon Phillips started in goal and Chris Solly, Patrick Bauer, Jason Pearce and Lewis Page made up the back four. New signing Darren Pratley operated in front of the back four as Mark Marshall, George Lapsie and Joe Aribo played in a narrow three. Lyle Taylor, who rejected Sunderland earlier in the transfer window, started up front with Karlan Grant.
This was a game of two halves as Sunderland changed tactics at half time to correct their shortcomings from the first half; changes which were successful as goals from Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch completed the comeback from a first half Lyle Taylor, of course, penalty.
Isolated front three to overloading attacking areas
Sunderland struggled to create chances in the first half, despite enjoying most of the possession - this was caused in part by the gap between the midfield three of Honeyman, Mumba and O’Nien and the forward players. This was worsened by the system employed by Charlton, and their narrow formation packed the central areas and made it difficult for Sunderland to get the ball in and around the box.
When Jack Ross’ men did get the ball into the box, there was often only one player supporting Josh Maja in the box.
However, a change of formation at half time - and the introduction of loanee Jerome Sinclair for O’Nien and Oviedo for the injured Love after half an hour - solved this problem, and it is no surprise that Sunderland looked more threatening after the break.
Jack Ross changed the formation to 3-5-2. Chris Maguire was moved centrally behind the two strikers and Sinclair added physicality up front, which Josh Maja lacked in the first half. Gooch and Oviedo operated more like wingers than full backs, which meant Sunderland often had five or six players in the final third; this also made it harder for Charlton to counter attack and lessened the threat of Taylor, who was dangerous throughout the first half.
The threat of Lyle Taylor was blunted - eventually
The standout player for the visitors was, without doubt, their goalscorer Lyle Taylor.
He showed everyone why Sunderland were after him during the summer as he ran the channels well and led the line, using his pace and strength to great effect, especially in the first half.
However, the threat he posed was significantly less after half time as Adam Matthews went to right centre back alongside Loovens and Ozturk.
The role of Matthews was interesting as he played a similar role to the one Kyle Walker played for England during the World Cup. He helped bring the ball out from the back and also added some pace to the centre of defence, an area which was painfully slow during the first half.
This is no more clear than in the Charlton goal, where an isolated Loovens was beaten by Grant and the back four lacked the pace to cover - causing winger Maguire to bring down the Charlton forward.
Blunt attack to cutting edge
During the first half Sunderland’s midfield was lacking in vertical movement and this, no doubt, contributed to the lads’ difficulty in creating clear cut chances in the first half.
However, the decision to move Maguire into the centre meant that we had a real creative presence in the centre of the park. New captain Honeyman also improved in the second half - he played give and goes more often which also helped the fluidity of the midfield as he started slightly deeper in the second half than he did in the first.
Lynden Gooch was direct throughout and frequently won fouls in dangerous positions and fully deserved his goal - especially given how much it means to him as an adopted Mackem.
The second half saw Sunderland create much more in the final third and the number of bodies in the box helped this, but it could not have been possible without runners from deep and the width provided by Gooch and Oviedo.
Overall, the performance throughout was not a bad start for Sunderland, especially given the overhaul which has been undertaken during the summer. The second half makes it impossible not to get excited about the prospect of attacking football which we should get this season.
Sunderland struggled to get going in the first half, but were very impressive in the second and changes at half time allowed Ross’ men to counter Charlton’s narrow formation, thus allowing our attacking players to flourish.