Sunderland AFC 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
Sunderland were pegged back in dramatic circumstances at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon, as QPR goalkeeper Seny Dieng snatched a late leveller for the visitors.
A remarkable first half of football from Alex Neil’s side forced a two-goal lead at half-time, as Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms once again got themselves on the scoresheet.
Ilias Chair’s free-kick revived the Londoners late on, before Dieng headed in a stoppage-time equaliser.
Alex Neil opted to name an unchanged starting XI from last weekend’s victory at Bristol City, with Simms once again partnering Stewart up top.
A difficult start ensued just moments into the game when Dan Ballard was struck on his ankle by a Rangers man, and was subsequently withdrawn as he struggled to put weight on the affected leg. He was replaced by Luke O’Nien, who slotted into the defence.
The first chance came for the Lads following a clever move, starting from Dan Neil in the middle of the park. Out to the left flank, Alex Pritchard received it and played an exchange with Jack Clarke, before chipping in for Stewart. His knockdown found Simms, whose effort went straight down the throat of ‘keeper Dieng.
At the other end, QPR carved out their first opportunity 18 minutes in as they broke down the left-hand side. Olamide Shodipo found space to loft the ball to the back post, but his opposite winger Albert Adomah headed off target unmarked.
But the opener arrived on the half-hour mark to raise the roof on Wearside. Stewart’s recovery pass to Clarke enabled him to find Pritchard, who weaved past two men before laying off Neil. His steered shot was saved well by Dieng, but Stewart himself arrived to mop up the rebound to give the Lads the lead.
Efforts at goal continued sporadically throughout the first half, Corry Evans’ volley taken in by Dieng before Lyndon Dykes’ deflected strike arrowed just over from 25 yards. Alex Pritchard’s free-kick then whisked wide from left of centre.
And with six minutes of the half remaining, it was two. Evans’ nice touch then saw Lynden Gooch loft the ball to Simms, who touched down for Pritchard. A challenge on him saw the ball run back into the path of the big striker, who finished well to double the advantage.
The final action of the half saw Danny Batth and Pritchard block efforts from Adomah and Chair respectively, as a superb first half saw the Lads in 2-0 ahead at the break.
Tyler Roberts replaced Adomah at the interval, and took on QPR’s first two shots of the second half – one a speculative effort high and wide, and the second a much better opportunity which was struck wide from 15 yards.
His namesake Patrick Roberts entered the fray for Sunderland on the hour mark, replacing Simms in Head Coach Neil’s second change of the match. He worked the Lads’ next effort on target, cutting in on his favoured left foot before firing at Dieng.
He would then go close once more with 20 minutes to go, latching onto an excellent outside-boot ball from Clarke, before curling inches past the post.
A foul on the edge of the box would then prove beneficial for the visitors as they lined up a free-kick just right of centre. Chair stepped up, and guided it expertly into the top corner to halve the deficit.
QPR pushed, and three minutes into the four allotted for stoppage time, Anthony Patterson’s excellent stop denied Shodipo. The resulting corner was only half-cleared, and a ball in from the left presented Dieng a chance to nod in a second for Michael Beale’s side.
The visiting stopper then produced further heroics for his side, as he pulled off an incredible double-save, touching Elliot Embleton's shot onto the bar from close range.
The Lads do however preserve their unbeaten league start, and next up head to Bramall Lane on Wednesday to take on Sheffield United.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Patterson, Ballard (O’Nien 9’), Batth, Cirkin, Gooch, Evans ©, Neil (Embleton 88’), Clarke, Pritchard (Wright 88’), Simms (Roberts 60’), Stewart.
Subs not used: Bass, Alese, Diamond.
Queens Park Rangers: Dieng, Kakay, Dickie, Dunne, Hamalainen (Bonne 90’), Field, Johansen (Dozzell 75’), Shodipo (Armstrong 81’), Adomah (Roberts 46’), Chair, Dykes.
Subs not used: Walsh, Masterson, Gubbins.