Joel Asoro’s majestic strike on his first league start ensured Sunderland saw off Hull City at the Stadium of Light.
Chris Coleman named a young side but they took it in their stride, a as dominant opening was rewarded when the Sweden under-21 international rattled the ball into the corner,
The Tigers fought back but they were unable to match the grit and determination shown by those in red and white, as winning ways returned to Wearside.
Whenever Sunderland and Hull City face off the stakes seem dizzyingly high – and this was certainly the case at the Stadium of Light as the sides went head to head in a finely-poised basement battle. Coleman elected to hand youth a chance as Ethan Robson and Asoro both made their first senior starts in league competition, but he was also able to hand Lee Cattermole a starting berth for the first time in two months. Hull, meanwhile, hoped a cruel twist of fate would come to the fore, as three former Black Cats – Seb Larsson, David Meyler and Frazier Campbell – lined up in gold and amber.
Sunderland’s youth exuberance was evident early and it was abundantly clear that a lack of confidence wouldn’t be a problem, as Asoro and Josh Maja started with a swagger that gave the Tigers backline plenty to chew on. With electric pace and underestimated strength, the Sweden under-21 international thrust on the turbo chargers early on and he got the Stadium of Light by surging forward at every opportunity before feeding Billy Jones who scuffed the first chance of the game wide. Maja, likewise, rose to the occasion and forced Allan McGregor into a low save on 15 minutes as the visitors struggled to shackle the dynamic duo.
Hull were warned and they didn’t listen – Sunderland shattered the deadlock on 19 minutes with a moment to savour. Just over a month after seeing his partner in crime end the Black Cats’ home hoodoo, Asoro decided to get in on the act with a sumptuous finish that raised the roof off the Stadium of Light. Fed by George Honeyman after robust defending from Cattermole, the 18-year-old was simply too quick for the Hull defence and a powerless McGregor who was left rooted to the spot as the youngster somehow found the corner with a thumping finish. What a moment. What a time to produce it.
The Tigers produced a fairly lacklustre response and Nigel Adkins side did little to test Robbin Ruiter, but the Dutchman did have some tidying up to do at the half-hour mark as Meyler’s scuffed effort rolled towards goal. Jon Toral spurned a good opportunity with a wayward attempt after a corner dropped kindly soon after, but an enforced change saw the Black Cats’ comfort waver as Jones was forced off with a head injury. Matthews was his replacement and the Welshman settled into the game well on his return from injury, as Sunderland continued to weather a brewing storm to ensure they led at the interval.
NEXT GOAL WINS
The second goal of the encounter was going to have an epic impact on proceedings and by 60 minutes nerves were well and truly shredded on Wearside. After Oviedo’s free-kick skimmed the roof of the net, Ty Browning did well to clear Evandro’s low cross before Larsson’s dipping effort whistled past the post, but the Swede was a spectator 60 seconds later as Honeyman got the better of him at the byline and squeezed his shot over McGregor and, agonisingly, across the face of goal. And with just over 20 minutes remaining Oviedo’s name was ringing around the SoL, as the Costa Rican showed impeccable reactions to head Michael Dawson’s goal-bound thunderbolt off the line.
Hull’s best avenue for success was, without a doubt, by exploiting the wings and pumping balls into the box, and they should have levelled with 70 minutes played when Michael Hector blazed over from 12 yards. The visitors continued to put the Black Cats under sustained pressure but, much like the opening 45 minutes, Ruiter remained untested as they failed to make the most of their play. Jackson Irvine, Nouha Dicko and Will Keane, who returned from a 14-month lay-off, soon joined the party, but the Black Cats dug deep and they almost finished the Tigers off when Robson’s drive was pushed away by McGregor – it didn’t matter, though, and Asoro’s worthy-match winner was enough.
Sunderland: Ruiter, Browning, O’Shea, Clarke-Salter, Jones, Oviedo, Cattermole, Robson, Honeyman, Asoro, Maja (Gooch 86).
Substiutes: Steele, Matthews, Love, Galloway, McGeady, McManaman.
Hull City: McGregor, Hector, Meyler, Toral (Irvine 69), Larsson, Bowen, Dawson, Campbell (Keane 76), Evandro (Dicko 79), Tomori, Aina.
Subs not used: Marshall, Henriksen, Mazuch, Clark.