safc.com’s Oscar Chamberlain takes a look at some of the talking points from the opening day of the campaign.
Charlton opened the scoring at the Stadium of Light, but the Black Cats struck back before a dramatic finale providing the perfect start to the campaign.
Ahead of the game, Jack Ross stated he was happy to shoulder the expectation that comes with managing Sunderland, and with 45 minutes played the pressure was on. One goal down and without a meaningful effort on goal, the Scot didn’t waste any time and reshuffled his pack immediately as Jerome Sinclair entered the fray. And the tactical switch worked like a charm. Charlton barely mustered an effort on goal during a dominant second-half from the Black Cats, who ran out deserved winners after overpowering and outworking the Addicks.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Sunderland’s progression throughout pre-season has been clear and they’ve improved each and every time they’ve taken to the field, but it’s still going to take time for the squad to gel. With 11 new signings through the door, the new boys are still finding their feet and as they continue to settle their performances will, naturally, improve. And that was evident throughout the game, with the Lads getting better and better as time went on.
It didn’t quite happen for Josh Maja in the opening 45 minutes, but the striker didn’t shy away from his task and continued to pick up good positions throughout the game. Leading the line on his own, the 19-year-old gave the Charlton backline plenty to think about, and he handled the physical side of the game well, but at times his finishing lacked the ruthless edge he’s shown at under-23 level. The biggest plus, though, was that his head didn’t drop, and after moving into the no.10 role following the interval, his persistence was rewarded as he bagged a quality equaliser.
MCGEOUCH MISSES OUT
Perhaps the standout performer in pre-season, the absence of Dylan McGeouch was a big blow ahead of the game. The Scotland international is integral to the way Jack Ross wants his side to play, with the midfielder’s ability to control the game a big miss. The Lads struggled to slow the play down and hold onto the ball at times, especially in the opening period, but the energy displayed by those who did play – George Honeyman, Luke O’Nien and Bali Mumba – was impressive, and decisive late on, and it will complement McGeouch’s play nicely when the midfielder returns.