Wigan Athletic 0-2 Sunderland AFC
Sunderland advanced to Round Four of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night, defeating Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
Nathan Broadhead rolled home his first goal for the club in the first half to put the Lads in the ascendancy, before Luke O’Nien finished an excellent move to make it two after the break.
Lee Johnson made wholesale changes for the tie as has been the case during the competition so far, with eight alterations in total from the weekend’s draw at Fleetwood Town.
O’Nien, Dennis Cirkin and Bailey Wright kept their places from Highbury Stadium, whilst Leon Dajaku made his eagerly anticipated debut in Lancashire. Broadhead, Niall Huggins and Alex Pritchard were also among the new starters, with Corry Evans captaining the side and Player of Round Two, Aiden O’Brien, leading the line.
Sunderland made a fairly strong early start, with Dajaku demonstrating shades of his quality with some nice touches – not least crossing from the right for O’Brien, who was just unable to adjust his feet.
O’Brien then let fly from the edge of the area 18 minutes in, whistling a strike inches past the post as he aimed for his fifth in the Cup this season.
But the persistence paid off with 26 minutes on the clock, Broadhead striking a deserved first SAFC strike when he cut inside his man and fired a pinpoint hit into the far corner, beyond the reach of Ben Amos.
A fine opening goal was almost immediately followed by a second, as Cirkin made a burst forward and sent a powerful strike goalwards, Amos tipping it over his crossbar.
The most Wigan mustered in the first half was a Gavin Massey effort, the Wigan skipper denied by a routine Lee Burge save.
There was a chance near the interval for Dajaku to mark his debut with a goal, but cut back after running clear for Pritchard, who went down in the area but to no avail from the referee.
A smooth one-touch move sent away Pritchard early in the second half too, as he then played in Dajaku to send a threatening ball into the six-yard box, fractionally evaded by three incoming Sunderland forwards.
Johnson’s men flew from the traps from the first kick of the second half, and O’Nien soon provided the second nine minutes after the interval, finishing a free-flowing move and Huggins’ neat square pass.
The defensive line remained solid for the Black Cats throughout, Wright making a strong block to deny Curtis Tilt inside the area, before Pritchard tried his luck with a 30-yard free-kick which sailed just over the top.
Ross Stewart and Elliot Embleton entered the fray for the final 18 minutes, and Stewart almost worked himself an opportunity when he turned inside and fired a left-foot strike from 18 yards which deflected behind.
As Sunderland looked to simmer down the tempo of the tie, Dan Neil came on to shore things up – but unfortunately in place of Huggins who picked up an injury and was helped from the field, O’Nien filling in at right-back.
Try as Wigan might, the Lads controlled the match and take a deserved win back to Wearside, for the second time against the Latics this season – and earn a ball in the hat for the last 16.
Wigan Athletic: Amos, Pearce, Cousins (Lang 66’), Edwards (Sze 90'), Massey © (Adeeko 85’), Jones, Kerr, Tilt, Lloyd, Smith, Humphrys.
Subs not used: Tickle, Carragher, Long, McHugh.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Burge; Huggins (Neil 79’), Wright, Alves, Cirkin; Evans ©, O’Nien; Dajaku (Embleton 72’), Pritchard (Stewart 72’), Broadhead; O’Brien.
Subs not used: Hoffmann, Flanagan, Doyle, Taylor.
Attendance: 6,511 (1,674 SAFC supporters)