One of three lunchtime games in the EFL Championship saw Sunderland return to the Stadium of Light looking for a second home win in a row, having picked up a point at Coventry City last time out. However, fourth-placed Southampton made the long trip up north looking for a third-straight victory, as Russell Martin’s Saints revolution begins to gather pace.
SUN: Patterson; Hume, Ballard, O’Nien, Cirkin; Neil, Ekwah; Ba, Dack, Clarke; Bellingham
SOU: Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Holgate, Manning; Downes, Smallbone, S. Armstrong; Edozie, Mara, A. Armstrong
A sunny day in Sunderland started out in perfect, but extraordinary, fashion for the home faithful – as with the first chance of the game, Tony Mowbray’s side went in front! From an early corner for the Saints, Abdoullah Ba got forward on the counterattack and switched the play beautifully to Tre Hume, whose cross was pinpoint for Jack Clarke to head home at the far post with just 54 seconds gone.
It got even better for the home side just five minutes later as Ba’s pass from the right hand side found Pierre Ekwah, whose low effort took the slightest of deflections off West Ham loanee Flynn Downes and into the bottom right corner past Gavin Bazunu – certainly not the start that Russell Martin would have dreamed of at all!
Ba, who had been rampant in the opening stages, almost got on the scoresheet himself as the young Frenchman cut inside and curled a teasing effort just wide of the top left corner.
Southampton found their first chance of the game from a free-kick, as Ryan Manning’s bending strike was collected comfortably by Anthony Patterson – an effort that summed up Southampton’s subpar start in this game.
Bradley Dack could count himself lucky for not conceding a penalty as his rash challenge on Manning saw David Coote wave appeals away, but had the referee had a better view, it could have been costly.
Southampton were beginning to grow into this contest, and from a corner, Will Smallbone’s low drive could only find the side netting. Wasted possession a few moments later by the home side almost saw Sam Edozie reduce their deficit, but his shot also whistled past the bottom corner.
Sunderland could have made it three for themselves with half an hour gone, but Jack Clarke’s tame effort only found the gloves of Bazunu. Ten minutes later, a free-kick by Dack saw Bazunu push the ball into the path of Dennis Cirkin, who couldn’t get his footing right and the ball was cleared subsequently.
The Black Cats did make it three right before the half’s end, and this time, the goal was surely Pierre Ekwah’s. Saints debutant Mason Holgate’s clearance travelled straight to the Frenchman’s feet, and he wasted no time before looking up and blasting the ball into the bottom corner from range.
The second half started with Tony Mowbray’s side further punishing the Saints, as they grabbed a fourth goal. Dennis Cirkin’s cross from the left was cleared as far as Abdoullah Ba, who got into the Southampton box again and cut the ball back to Bradley Dack – tapping home his first goal for Sunderland, following his release from Blackburn Rovers in the summer.
A few moments later, a corner for the Black Cats was cleared. However, it was only cleared as far as Luke O’Nien, who flicked the ball up and volleyed a fantastic effort towards goal, only for his effort to travel just over the bar.
Mason Holgate almost atoned for his earlier mistake with a fierce shot which stung the palms of Anthony Patterson and span out for a corner – from which nothing came to fruition.
With just over twenty minutes to go, Black Cats substitute Luis Hemir cut inside on the edge of the Southampton box twice and his shot deflected just wide of the bottom right corner.
Before coming off for 16-year-old Chris Rigg, Jack Clarke almost added a second to his name. First, he sent a ball in low looking for Ba at the far post – which was cleared by Shea Charles, albeit only as far as Clarke. He couldn’t sort his feet out in time to shoot, allowing Bazunu to then collect the ball.
The final chance of the game fell the way of 16-year-old Rigg, and what a moment it was. A brilliant show of skills from substitute Jewison Bennette saw him find the young midfielder in the box, and Rigg headed home for his first ever league goal.
With the first international break of the season now taking centre stage, both sides will return to Championship action in mid-September. Sunderland travel to Gareth Ainsworth’s QPR on Saturday 16th September, while Southampton face league leaders Leicester City at St. Mary’s the night before.