Sunderland 0-5 Celtic
Sunderland’s pre-season campaign ended in disappointing fashion as Celtic lifted the Dafabet Cup at the Stadium of Light.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the men in red and white, with the Hoops racing into a 3-0 lead before interval as Callum McGregor struck twice and Jonny Hayes added a third following a missed penalty by James Vaughan.
McGregor completed his hat-trick soon after the restart as Brendan Rodgers’ side continued to dominate, with Stuart Armstrong completing the scoring to complete a dominant win.
CAULDRON OF NOISE
A cauldron of noise greeted the teams as they exited the tunnel at 2.55pm, with the red and white army welcoming the players back to Wearside as the 9,000-strong Celtic fans made themselves heard. The scene was set as Simon Grayson handed starts to his six summer signings, including Jason Steele and Lewis Grabban, with former Hoops winger Aiden McGeady also given his first taste of SoL action. Former Black Cat Craig Gordon didn’t feature, though, with Dorus de Vries selected as former Liverpool manager Rodgers kept one eye on next week’s UEFA Champions League qualifier in Rosenberg.
A frenetic opening led to an early goal but it was the visitors who drew first blood. A routine back pass to Steele from Ty Browning was fired in Lamine Kone’s direction, but what should have been a simple clearance turned into a gift-wrapped opportunity for McGregor. Kone swiped and missed, with the ball bobbling off his standing leg and into the path of McGregor who made Sunderland pay. The Lads responded and within two minutes they were inches away from levelling, as McGeady showed the home faithful a glimpse into what they can expect from the talented winger. After picking up the ball on the left, the summer signing weaved inside and dinked an inviting cross towards Vaughan, but his bullet header was somehow clawed away by de Vries.
BLACK CATS BOMBARDED
Celtic refused to let up and they launched an all-out assault on Sunderland’s backline as the opening period continued. Rodgers’ side made it 2-0 on 15 minutes with flawless play from Scott Sinclair and James Forrest carving open the Lads defence, with McGregor once again on hand to apply the final touch as the midfielder swept the ball past Steele. 10 minutes later Galloway came to the rescue to block Sinclair’s header on the line, but wave after wave of attack continued to crash forward as McGregor was denied a hat-trick by the post and Steele denied Olivier Ntcham.
LADS PAY THE PENALTY
A brighter period followed for the Black Cats but, ultimately, it ended in bitter disappointment. Wahbi Khazri, who would limp off shortly after, should have levelled after breezing through on goal, but the real chance to strike back came on 35 minutes as the Tunisian’s replacement George Honeyman won a penalty. Vaughan and Grabban debated over who would take the spot kick with the latter winning that battle, but it would be more penalty woe for the former Bury man as de Vries made a superb double save. And the 36-year-old stopper continued his one-man mission against the Black Cats one minute later, as Grabban charged down the right and forced a low save before Jonny Hayes made it 3-0 before the break.
MCGREGOR’S KNOCKOUT BLOW
The post denied McGregor his treble in the opening period, but nothing could prevent him from completing his hat-trick in the second. With 54 minutes played Tony Ralston picked up the ball on the edge of the box and eased past McGeady, but a clumsy challenge from the winger sent the 18-year-old tumbling and the referee pointed to the spot. McGregor stepped up and slammed he ball into the corner, sending Steele the wrong way. Browning could have reduced the arrears after the hour mark, but he was unable to make any meaningful contact with Grabban’s floated free-kick.
Both sides made wholesale changes in the closing stages of the game, but it did little to turn the tide of the contest as Celtic ran riot. And it was Armstrong who provided the final touch to a dominant performance for the Hoops, with the midfielder’s long-range effort flying into the bottom corner.
Sunderland: Steele, Jones (Matthews 77), Galloway, Kone, Browning (O’Shea 54), Cattermole (Gibson 77), Ndong, McGeady, Grabban (Asoro 68), Khazri (Honeyman 31), Vaughan.
Substitutes: Djilbodji, Love, Embleton, Mika, Stryjek.
Celtic: de Vries, Ralston, Ajer (McCart 73), Tierney (Hill 61), Miller (Benyu 73), Kouassi, Ntcham (Bitton 46), Hayes (Rogic 46), McGregor (Henderson , Sinclair (Armstrong 46), Forrest (Ciftci 61).
Substitutes: Gordon, Hazard, Aitchison.