Sunderland 2-1 Leicester City
Sunderland walked in a Wearside wonderland on Saturday as champions Leicester City were brushed aside at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats were rampant in the opening stages and they could have been out of sight within ten minutes, but luck was on the Foxes’ side and Claudio Ranieri’s side somehow remained in the game.
After weathering the storm, Leicester rallied during the opening stages of the second period but with 63 minutes on the clock they fell behind as Jan Kirchhoff – on at half-time – saw his header deflected into the net by Robert Huth.
Within minutes David Moyes’ side should have been given the chance to double their advantage when Patrick van Aanholt was sent tumbling in the box, but for the second time in the game they were denied what looked to be a clear penalty.
Jermain Defoe had seemingly wrapped up the points when his poacher’s finish made it 2-0 soon after, but Shinji Okazaki’s finish provided a glimmer of hope for the visitors as the forward fired home from close range.
But the Black Cats refused to be beaten and stoppage-time heroics from Jordan Pickford and his rearguard ensured a third Premier League win in four ahead of next weekend’s trip to Swansea City.
Sunderland boss Moyes made one change from the side who fell to a narrow defeat at Anfield last weekend, with Papy Djilobodji returning from a one-match ban to replace John O’Shea.
Leicester made a jittery start to the game and they immediately put themselves under pressure.
The Foxes fired the ball straight out of play seconds after kick-off before Anichebe crossed into the danger zone, with Wes Morgan fluffing his lines to allow Duncan Watmore to test Ron-Robert Zieler.
Sunderland continued to press and a wonderfully crafted move involving Watmore, Didier Ndong and Steven Pienaar eventually saw the ball worked into Anichebe, but this time the Nigerian opted to pull the trigger and his effort sailed into the stand.
With four minutes played Anichebe was at it again, stabbing the ball at goal following a clever ball from van Aanholt, but it was crucially diverted wide by Morgan.
Two minutes later van Anaholt was again causing havoc down the left flank but after skipping past his marker he overran possession and the Foxes scrambled the ball to safety.
And with the Black Cats queuing up, Defoe and Watmore both saw chances fall in the visitors’ favour as the opening ten minutes came to a close.
The next opportunity fell to Anichebe who brought down the ball under immense pressure at the back post before firing at goal, but he couldn’t get a clean strike with replays indicating foul play from Morgan who grappled the powerful striker with little interest in the ball.
Undeterred, Sunderland crashed forward once more and they again tore strips off the Leicester defence, but with the goal in his sight Defoe squandered a chance from eight yards.
With the half-mark approaching Leicester began to flex their offensive muscles and Jamie Vardy fired the first warning shot, glancing a header wide after the Lads momentarily switched off.
But following a blockbuster opening 35 minutes, the remainder of the opening period was a fairly drab affair – Christian Fuchs’ cross dropped onto the crossbar for the only moment of note – with the score level at the break.
Prior to the interval Pienaar suffered a clash of heads and it came as no surprise when he didn’t emerge for the second period, but he wasn’t the only one with Denayer also subbed as Seb Larson and Kirchhoff both made their long-awaited returns to action.
Leicester mustered the first opening of the second period and improved upon their initial showing, but, like the Black Cats before them, they were frustrated as Islam Slimani’s first-time effort ricocheted off Djilobodji.
The Black Cats responded as the red and white army continued to back their team, but after skipping past two defenders Watmore’s cross was too high for Anichebe who headed well wide.
Kirchhoff made a big impression in his opening six months on Wearside, and he returned with a bang on 63 minutes as the German’s header deflected off Huth and into the net to open the scoring.
It was no more than the Black Cats deserved and two minutes later they were denied a penalty.
Van Aanholt was the man at the centre of the drama, playing a one-two with Defoe to bamboozle Danny Simpson who slid in recklessly and sent the Dutchman tumbling.
But somehow, some way, the champions escaped unpunished.
Thankfully it didn’t matter and with 78 minutes Sunderland were celebrating again as Defoe’s instinctive finish doubled the Black Cats’ advantage.
Leicester needed a lift and they got one through Okazaki who finished from close range, with the forward handing the visitors a lifeline to set up a grandstand finale on Wearside.
Watmore was then stretchered off as the Black Cats suffered yet another injury blow, with Javier Manquillo joining the defensive ranks as the Lads looked to consolidate their lead into points.
Six minutes of injury time were signalled at the end of the game and to each and every member of the red and white army it felt like a lifetime.
Foxes ‘keeper Zieler came up for a corner with 60 seconds remaining and when Pickford slipped it looked like a nightmare end was on the horizon, but the local stopper was quick to spring to his feet to make a tremendous point-blank save seconds after Lamine Kone threw himself in front of Morgan’s initial effort.
And it was enough for Moyes’ side jumped with joy at the full-time whistle as a third win in four Premier League game was confirmed.
Ha’way the Lads!
Sunderland: Pickford, Jones, van Aanholt, Kone, Djilobodji, Denayer (Kirchhoff 46), Ndong, Pienaar (Larsson 46), Watmore (Manquillo 85), Anichebe, Defoe.
Substitutes: Mannone, Khazri, O’Shea, Januzaj.
Leicester City: Zieler, Morgan, Huth, Vardy, King, Albrighton (Gray 72), Amarty, Simpson, Slimani (Okazaki 68), Mahrez (Musa 72), Fuchs.
Substitutes: Hamer, Hernandez, Schlupp, Mendy.