Sunderland’s League One automatic promotion chances were dealt a major blow as they shipped five goals at home to Coventry City losing a nine-goal thriller.
Remarkable finishes from Bright Enokbakhare, Amadou Bakayoko, Jordan Shipley and Conor Chaplin, plus a deflected effort from Jordy Hiwula condemned Jack Ross’ men to their first league loss at home.
George Honeyman, Charlie Wyke, Will Grigg and Max Power were the Mackem scorers in a game where the Black Cats battled back on three occasions, only to throw away their attacking success, with pitiful defending.
Sunderland trailed early, before Honeyman leveled, Coventry then raced out to a 3-1 lead. Somehow the Wearsiders answered twice before half-time courtesy of Wyke and Grigg.
Shipley’s strike from distance was matched by a deflected effort from Power, only for Chaplin to bury a winner 15 minutes from time.
Sunderland drop to third, two points behind Barnsley, but a game in hand means promotion is still in the Black Cats’ hands, despite now being level with Portsmouth on points and matches played in third.
Coventry City struck first, after an open, end-to-end first 15 minutes at the Stadium of Light.
A poor give away from Luke O’Nien created the space for Enokbakhare to dribble into the Sunderland box before opening up his body to slot past Jon McLaughlin from 15 yards, showcasing outstanding composure.
Sunderland weren’t behind for long and after excellent direct running from Lewis Morgan who carried the ball from the halfway line into the City box, Honeyman leveled. After beating Dujon Sterling with ease Morgan teed-up Honeyman whose side-footer deflected past a wrong-footed Lee Burge in the Coventry goal.
Still inside the opening 20 minutes the visitors re-took their lead. Luke Thomas evaded a poor challenge from Grant Leadbitter to then lay on an outstandingly weighted through ball for Bakayoko who finished past McLaughlin first-time. It was brilliant, clinical play from Mark Robins’ side, but the defensive line and lack of awareness from the Mackem’s centre-halves was appalling.
With less than half an hour played Sunderland had shipped three at home for the first time in League One. The Sky Blues’ forwards were carving Sunderland open with ease.
A simple ball in behind O’Nien put Hiluwa through on goal, his effort deflected past McLaughlin at his near post.
With ten minutes to go before half-time the visitors nearly had a fourth with Enokbakhare seeing his placed effort deflect just wide of a sprawling McLaughlin.
From nowhere Burge handed Sunderland a lifeline before the break. The Coventry stopper dropped a routine Bryan Oviedo cross, giving Wyke an empty goal to fire into.
Black Cats pulled level before the break, scoring the sixth goal of a ridiculous first-half. Wyke was instrumental again, finding Grigg with a knockdown, the 27-year-old evaded a Coventry challenge before slotting confidently from point blank range.
Coventry scored a stunning fourth ten minutes after break on the counter. An overly ambitious pass from Jack Baldwin was easily picked off by the Sky Blues. Coventry worked the ball quickly to Shipley who let fly from 20 plus yards and drilled his effort into the bottom corner.
McGeady just minutes after his introduction found Power in space, his slotted effort took a massive deflection to beat Burge and level at four each.
Remarkably, Sunderland managed to concede an even worse from a defensive perspective. Baldwin failed to cut out a weak cross giving substitute, Chaplin, the space to turn and fire into the top corner from close range.
Despite plenty of endeavor Sunderland couldn’t add a fifth suffering a humbling defeat that raises questions about the manager’s tactical acumen and defence’s ability at the most important time of the season.
Ross faces a major challenge raising spirits before Friday’s showdown with Doncaster Rovers after this crushing, embarrassing loss.
Jon McLaughlin, 6/10: Tough to place too much blame McLaughlin’s way seeing as he was beaten by four first-rate finishes and a close-range deflection.
Luke O’Nien, 2/10: Appalling, it was O’Nien’s lack of concentration, awful passing and terrible attempted clearances that set the tone for a pitiful defensive performance.
Tom Flanagan, 3/10: Somehow managed to top his awful showing against Burton, some effort.
Jack Baldwin, 3/10: His mistakes for Coventry’s fourth and fifth goals were inexplicable, his first-half performance was poor as well.
Bryan Oviedo, 6/10: Remarkably his teammates have been so awful since Oviedo’s return to the starting 11, that’s he’s been the best of a bad bunch defensively, seems to be building chemistry with Morgan too.
Grant Leadbitter, 6/10: Produced some brilliant passes, but his lack of defensive awareness was badly exposed by Coventry’s smart frontline.
Max Power, 6/10: Didn’t work next to Leadbitter neither offered enough defensive protection, hid did get on the scoresheet however.
Lewis Morgan, 7/10: Rivaled Wyke as Sunderland’s most dangerous attacking weapon, used his technique, skill and pace to great effect.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Pretty poor outside of his goal.
Charlie Wyke, 7/10: Resurrected Sunderland with a goal and two assists leading the Wearside fight back.
Will Grigg, 7/10: Much better than Tuesday linking play and back on the scoresheet as well.
(SUB) Kazaiah Sterling, 6/10: His pace and energy caused problems for a tired City defence.
(SUB) Aiden McGeady, 6/10: Showed his class in limited minutes.
(SUB) Benji Kimpioka, n/a: Barely touched it, after being introduced late on.
Man of the Match: Charlie Wyke