Chris Coleman’s first game at the Stadium of Light ended in defeat as 10-men Sunderland fell to Reading.
A red card before the interval was pivotal as the Royals took full advantage following the restart, with Lewis Grabban netting a late consolation from the spot.
Review all the action below.
Chris Coleman named an unchanged side ahead of the game as he kept the faith with the same XI that defeated Burton Albion one week ago, but an injury to Paddy McNair in the warm-ups saw Darron Gibson replace the Northern Irishman as Brendan Galloway moved up to the bench. Despite the blow, Sunderland were handed a bench boost ahead of the contest as Marc Wilson and Josh Maja returned to the squad, as former Black Cats Vito Mannone and Paul McShane started at the SoL.
A fractious opening soon calmed as Sunderland asserted their control of possession and remained patient in possession. In one of Coleman’s first interviews with the club, the Welshman highlighted the need for ‘smart football’ and declared an obvious but often overlooked fact – the opposition can’t score without the ball – and this was very much evident in the opening 15 minutes. That’s not to say there wasn’t chances, though, with Bryan Oviedo clipping an effort narrowly wide before Callum McManaman and McShane picked up yellow cards for similarly reckless challenges.
AND IT WAS ALL YELLOW
The best opportunity of the opening period arrived on 21 minutes and it fell at David Edwards’ feet, but after timing his run to perfection and meeting Yann Kermorgant’s clever pull-back, the midfield spooned his effort wildly off target. Sunderland responded and McManaman’s cross caused problems before being hacked clear, but as half-time approached the Royals grew in stature as had much more time on the ball. Coleman’s men held firm, though, as a fiery contest saw Lee Cattermole, Sone Aluko and Oviedo all cautioned before the break.
With five players walking a disciplinary tightrope a red card seemed somewhat inevitable – and it arrived in first-half stoppage time. A scintillating counter saw McManaman bundle the ball home from Adam Matthews’ cross, but celebrations were cut short as the referee’s whistle sounded. The linesman, who didn’t flag until he realised play was stopped, was soon consulted and from that conversation McManaman was cautioned for handball meaning it remained 0-0 as the winger was dismissed. Controversy, indeed.
BACKS TO THE WALL
Reading flew out of the traps following the restart and McShane would have opened the scoring had it not been for his team-mate, Joey van den Berg, who inadvertently blocked the defender’s goalbound header. But the visitors didn’t have to wait long and they simply overran the Black Cats, with Edwards finishing from close range to open the scoring after Aluko’s initial effort was blocked. Oviedo then limped off to add to Sunderland’s injury woes as the onslaught continued, but the game was far from over and George Honeyman showed why as Mannone turned his drilled effort to safety.
On 68 minutes it was very much game, set and match as the Royals struck again and any hopes of an unlucky point evaporated. Kermorgant was allowed time and space to measure his cross to the back post and Barrow timed his run to perfection, with the unmarked winger volleying straight at Robbin Ruiter who was unable to keep it out. And three minutes later they added a third as Kermorgant once again played architect, Barrow continuing to reap the rewards with a simple finish. Lewis Grabban pulled one back from the spot after terrific work from Asoro who jinxed in and out before testing Mannone and winning the rebound, but it was too little too late.
Sunderland: Ruiter, Matthews, O’Shea, Browning, Oviedo (Galloway 58), Cattermole (Gooch 80), Gibson, Honeyman, McGeady, McManaman, Grabban.
Subs not used: Steele, Love, Gibson, Maja, Wilson.
Reading: Mannone, Gunter, Van Den Berg, McShane, Moore, Aluko (Beerens 81), Edwards, Barrow, Kermorgant, Bacuna, Kelly (Clement 81).
Subs not used: Jaakkola, Ilori, Bodvarsson, Blackett, Popa.