Sunderland’s eventual charge to promotion in 2021/2022 saw plenty of standout goals scored by many different players. Here are some of the best and most important…
Elliot Embleton vs Wycombe, 28th August 2021
This encounter with Gareth Ainsworth’s team (more on them later) was one of the most enjoyable games of the season.
The sun was shining, the atmosphere was upbeat, and it was one of those notable early-season games under Lee Johnson where it felt as though this season, it would be different.
Sunderland played with verve, confidence, and all of the dynamism we hoped they would, and were rewarded with a big victory.
Ross Stewart had given us an early lead, and barely five minutes later, Embleton picked up the ball on the right and curled a sumptuous finish beyond the dive of David Stockdale.
It wouldn’t be the first time he would give the Wycombe goalkeeper nightmares, and it was an exciting glimpse of what Embleton could bring to the team after finishing the previous campaign on loan at Blackpool.
Dan Neil vs Accrington, 11th September 2021
Anyone who ever accused Johnson of being overly arrogant or detached only needs to watch his interview after this match. You could see exactly how much Neil’s breakthrough goal meant, as the then-boss highlighted the fact that Sunderland’s academy was producing players with genuine talent.
When Neil picked up the ball on the edge of the box, the inevitable cry of ‘shoooooot!’ followed, and he was happy to oblige, making a yard of space for himself and lashing a shot beyond James Trafford in the Accrington goal.
Neil had impressed regularly during the early months of the season, but this was a goal that truly signified his arrival. Although he would ultimately endure a season of ups and downs, this was a definite highlight for the young midfielder.
Leon Dajaku vs Crewe Alexandra, 19th October 2021
The news that Dajaku has been retained for next season was one of the more interesting post-Wembley talking points, and there is no doubt that if he continues to work hard, he could make a solid contribution to our Championship campaign.
This goal, a sharp and emphatic strike at the near post following a lengthy run, showed exactly what the young German is capable of, and it added the gloss to a thoroughly comprehensive scoreline.
Dajaku would also show his instincts in front of goal with a neat finish against Oxford a short time afterwards, and these were moments of real quality during a turbulent season for him.
Jack Clarke vs Fleetwood, 8th March 2022
During his loan spell on Wearside, Clarke had the ability to simultaneously excite and frustrate supporters, but as he settled down and began to add consistency to his game, he played a key role towards the end of the season.
This goal, however, showed the former Leeds prodigy at his potent best.
He drove at the Fleetwood defence, shuffled inside, and smashed the ball beyond Alex Cairns to cap off another crucial home win.
Nathan Broadhead vs Shrewsbury, 15th April 2022
After this game, there was much discussion about whether we were getting lucky with the late goals we kept mustering, or whether it was indicative of the newly-instilled ‘never-say-die’ spirit that Alex Neil had brought to the club.
Either way, this was a key goal, and one that secured a vital three points at a stage of the season where the margin for error was minimal.
We had eased into a 2-0 lead with two stunning goals from Elliot Embleton and Broadhead himself, only to be pegged back to 2-2 within thirteen minutes of the second half, and faced with the prospect of dropping two points.
The Everton loanee would eventually become the hero yet again, however, darting between two defenders to head home a priceless winner after an accurate cross from Jack Clarke.
Ross Stewart vs Cambridge, 23rd April 2022
After Stewart turned and lashed home this goal, I turned to my dad and suggested that there was more than a hint of Niall Quinn in the way he had taken it.
Lynden Gooch’s cross from the right was accurate, and at the second time of asking, Stewart controlled the ball with his back to goal, turned, and slammed it past Dimitar Mitov.
It was another example of Stewart’s superb all-round ability in front of goal, and set us on the way to a comfortable 5-0 victory.
Ross Stewart vs Sheffield Wednesday, 6th May 2022
As the Stadium of Light revelled in one of its best atmospheres in many years, Sunderland set about tackling the challenge of the playoffs with optimism and a sense of positivity, rather than trepidation.
We were the better team throughout the first leg, and could’ve easily taken a greater advantage to Hillsborough, but ultimately, a single goal proved to be the difference.
A hopeful punt forward from Dennis Cirkin was not dealt with by Owls defender Sam Hutchinson, and Stewart outmuscled him before sliding the ball home from a tight angle after Bailey Peacock-Farrell had half-blocked his initial shot.
The goal sparked joyous scenes among the 40,000+ crowd, and gave us the edge ahead of the second leg.
Patrick Roberts vs Sheffield Wednesday, 9th May 2022
The goal that sent the travelling fans into raptures and secured Sunderland’s passage to Wembley, Roberts’ finish came at the end of a night of high drama in South Yorkshire.
We’d kept Darren Moore’s team at bay for three quarters of the game, but when Lee Gregory stabbed home an equaliser after some good work from Barry Bannan, it looked as though the promotion dream was in jeopardy.
This time, though, it would be different, as Jack Clarke broke forward, took on his man, and calmly slotted the ball across the face of goal for Roberts to finish the job.
The former Celtic attacker had shown flashes of his talent since his arrival, but this was the most telling contribution of all, and was just reward for our efforts over the two legs.
Elliot Embleton vs Wycombe, 21st May 2022
The kind of goal we’ve all dreamed of scoring, but only Embleton knows exactly how it feels to run half the length of the pitch and let fly from twenty yards to open the scoring for Sunderland in a major Wembley final.
Yes, David Stockdale misjudged the flight of the ball as it swerved at the last second, but that shouldn’t detract from the quality of the strike, as well as the confidence of Embleton to take it on.
It gave us the breakthrough against Wycombe, and the celebrations of Embleton and his teammates- as well as the jubilant scenes among our fans- told their own story.
Ross Stewart vs Wycombe, 21st May 2022
Who else would it be?
With eleven minutes left to play and a 1-0 lead to defend, Stewart ensured that there would be no more anxiety or last-gasp Wembley heartbreak this time.
After some superb interplay between Patrick Roberts and Alex Pritchard, the ball arrived at the feet of the Scot, who shifted it to his right and calmly passed it past a flat-footed Stockdale to seal the victory.
His trademark knee-slide celebration towards a sea of elated fans is probably the abiding image of the day, and will doubtless go down in Sunderland folklore.