Sunderland AFC 2-1 Wigan Athletic
Sunderland got off to a perfect start in Sky Bet League One for 2021-22 on Saturday after coming from behind to defeat Wigan Athletic in front of a 30,000-plus crowd at the Stadium of Light.
Aiden McGeady’s penalty levelled for the Lads 17 minutes in after Ross Stewart was fouled, cancelling out Gwion Edwards’ opener for the visitors just moments prior.
Stewart then nodded home the winner eight minutes after the break, securing victory in front of a passionate returning crowd.
Lee Johnson opted for Lee Burge to start in goal, with Stewart leading the line – Carl Winchester and Dan Neil filled in as the two full-backs with excellent displays.
Wigan produced a bright start with their five debutants, former Lads captain Max Power seeing a shot crucially blocked by the head of Lynden Gooch following a sustained spell of pressure.
Whilst the Lads attempted to tilt momentum their way, Wigan created a dangerous opening and fired themselves in front. A neat touch down the right from Tendayi Darikwa opened up space to square for Will Keane. The striker’s effort cannoned back off the upright and presented itself to Gwion Edwards, whose strike rose high into the net.
Whilst a goal may have sent many sides into their shells for a period, the Black Cats leapt straight back. Stewart’s press with the ball into the Wigan area saw him brought down by Darikwa, referee Robert Madley pointing straight to the spot.
McGeady stepped up and sent Ben Amos the wrong way, bringing raptures from the Wearside crowd.
And Sunderland were certainly not looking to stop there – Gooch and Winchester looking lively down the right to eventually present a volleyed chance for Elliot Embleton, his goal-bound strike crucially blocked by Tom Pearce.
The midfield man also found himself the beneficiary of another good move just after the half-hour mark, as Neil’s excellent feed into McGeady saw the winger cross for Embleton, whose header sailed over Amos’ crossbar. From the resulting corner, Darikwa made an important block to deny Tom Flanagan’s shot.
Stewart’s header from Gooch’s delivery floated just wide in the final chance of the half, as the Lads progressed throughout the 45 minutes.
The opening exchanges of the second half swung towards Lee Johnson’s men once more, captain Corry Evans seeing a sweetly struck volley blocked, before the crucial second finally arrived.
Embleton’s corner delivery from the right was pinpoint and Stewart won one of his numerous successful aerial duels, looping a header into the far corner to put the Lads in front for the first time in 2021-22.
Stewart then headed another just wide, before Gooch fired a well-hit left-footed strike onto the underside of the crossbar – inches away from the gloss on a fine performance.
At the other end, Edwards was denied by Lee Burge, after a header over the top from Wyke – Carl Winchester then limped from the field with an injury issue with 13 minutes remaining.
The task for the Lads remained to be resolute and organised, and they did just that to limit the Latics’ chances and claim an opening-day three points at a loud and proud Stadium of Light.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Burge; Winchester (Diamond 77’), Flanagan, Doyle, Neil; Evans ©, O’Nien; Gooch, Embleton (Wright 86’), McGeady (O’Brien 75’); Stewart.
Subs not used: Patterson, Pritchard, Grigg, Hawkes.
WIGAN ATHLETIC: Amos, Darikwa ©, Whatmough, Long, Pearce, Power, Naylor (Cousins 88’), Lang, Keane (J. Jones 67’), Edwards (Humphrys 79’), Wyke.
Subs not used: Jones, Massey, Aasgaard, Robinson.