Match report: Maja strike clinches win

Blackpool 0-1 Sunderland

Sunderland returned to winning ways and started 2019 with a win, as Josh Maja’s first-half strike secured three points at Bloomfield Road on New Year’s Day.

The 20-year-old struck with 23 minutes on the clock, rounding off a classy move with a typically assured finish to bag his 15th goal of the campaign.

Blackpool responded, and the Black Cats were forced to dig deep, as both sides created chances in an open yet combative encounter.

Armand Gnanduillet thought he’d levelled following the restart, but Jack Baldwin had other ideas and produced a stunning last-ditch clearance.

And a clean sheet turned out to be vital, as the Lads held on for three points.

Jack Ross made two changes to the side that was held by Shrewsbury Town, as Reece James replaced Bryan Oviedo and Charlie Wyke came in for Chris Maguire.

Armed with a potent front four of Aiden McGeady, Lynden Gooch, Josh Maja and Wyke, the Lads started on the front foot as a deafening away support roared them forward.

And it didn’t take long for the opener to arrive.

With 23 minutes played, a brilliant defence-splitting pass from Baldwin carved open the home defence, and Maja finished with aplomb after being picked out by McGeady.

Blackpool rallied in the moments that followed, carrying a clear threat that almost resulted in an equaliser when Chris Taylor struck the post.

Jon McLaughlin also needed to be alert as ball after ball was played into the mix, but Sunderland ended the opening period minutes on top, and entered the interval 1-0 up.

The Tangerines continued to turn the screw following the restart, and the home side were left wondering how they hadn’t levelled on 48 minutes.

After holding off Tom Flanagan, Gnanduillet flicked the ball over McLaughlin and seemingly over the line, but phenomenal recovering defending from Baldwin cleared the ball with a millimetre to spare.

The sides continued to trade blows and Terry McPhillips’ side had a couple of lucky escapes of their own.

First, Mark Howard fumbled a venomous drive from McGeady inches wide of his post, and questions were asked when Maja was nudged mid-air while leaping for a header.

The pressure didn’t end there, as the Lads’ top scorer flashed an effort a wide before and Flanagan’s goalbound header was cleared off the line.

Chances continued to fall at both ends, but Maja’s strike remained the difference at the end to ensure a happy New Year on Wearside.

Attendance: 10,994 (7,804)

Blackpool: Howards, Daniels, O’Connor, Heneghan, Delfouneso (Dodoo 71), Spearing, Taylor (Pritchard 84), Gnanduillet, Feeney, Guy, Bola.
Subs not used: Mafoumbi, Nottingham, O’Sullivan, Davies, Shaw.

Sunderland: McLaughlin, Flanagan, Baldwin, O’Nien, James, Cattermole, Power, McGeady, Gooch, Maja (Maguire 88), Wyke (McGeouch 84).
Subs not used: Ruiter, Ozturk, Sinclair, Mumba, Kimpioka.

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