Sunderland 2-1 Charlton Athletic
It doesn’t get much better than that!
The 2018-19 season started with a bang, as Jack Ross’ Sunderland clinched a stoppage time win against Charlton Athletic.
An expectant 31,079 crowd refused to be silenced throughout, despite Lee Bowyer’s side taking an early lead as Lyle Taylor struck from the penalty spot
Ross shuffled his pack at the break as Jerome Sinclair entered the fray – and the Lads never looked back.
Josh Maja grabbed the equaliser with a sublime finish on 65 minutes, but they saved the best ‘til last, as Lynden Gooch powered a 95th-minute header into the top corner to win it.
We’re on our way!
Ross handed 16-year-old Bali Mumba a start, as Jon McLaughlin, Glenn Loovens, Alim Ozturk, Luke O’Nien and Chris Maguire were also included in the starting XI.
George Honeyman captained the side as fellow academy graduate Gooch also featured, while Maja led the line.
A cauldron of noise greeted the players as they exited the tunnel, with the red and white army providing a fitting backdrop for the Sky Bet League One curtain-raiser.
The opening exchanges were combative as both sides attempted to stamp their authority on the game, but the Addicks seized the initiative on ten minutes as Lyle Taylor opened the scoring.
Seconds after a good chance at the other end, Karlan Grant breezed past Loovens and raced towards goal where the back-tracking Maguire clipped his heels and sent him tumbling in the box.
The referee had no choice but to point to the spot, and Taylor made no mistake.
Ross’ men responded well to falling behind, as did the SoL faithful as a roar of defiance echoed around Wearside following the restart, but the Addicks continued to carve out the better openings.
With 25 minutes played, McLaughlin was forced into action to turn Darren Prateley’s thunderous strike behind, with Jason Pearce heading the resulting corner just wide.
Close calls followed as the Lads failed to connect with a teasing free-kick from Maguire, while Taylor failed to apply the finishing touch, albeit from an offside position, at the other end.
It was the Lads who ended the half on top, though, with Maja diverting a good opportunity wide before Alim Ozturk failed to turn Loovens’ flick beyond Dillon Phillips.
And there was further action in added time, as Maguire’s wayward effort fell into Maja’s path and the striker was closed down by Phillips after taking one touch too many.
Sinclair was introduced ahead of the restart and the Black Cats remained in top, but the on-loan Watford man missed over five minutes after he was forced back down the tunnel following a clash of heads.
But after he returned, the Lads levelled as Maja came alive.
Operating in a deeper position, the striker found a pocket of space inside the box and took full advantage, firing a low finish through the defender’s legs and in at the near post.
The Addicks responded with some pressure of their own, but Philips came to their rescue with 14 minutes remaining as the ‘keeper clawed Maguire’s 25-yard free-kick out of the top corner.
Phillips was taken out of the equation with 84 minutes played, as Bryan Oviedo drilled the ball into the six-yard box and Sinclair threw a leg out at it, but the forward saw his effort crash inches wide.
Ross’ side continued to pile forward, but it appeared their persistence would go without further reward as Sinclair limped off with an apparent hamstring injury.
But the drama wasn’t over just yet, and with 96 minutes on the clock Gooch powered an unstoppable header into the top corner to send the red and white army into raptures.
Sunderland: McLaughlin, Love (Oviedo 26), Matthews, Loovens, Ozturk, O’Nien (Sinclair 45 (Molyneux 90)), Honeyman, Mumba, Maguire, Gooch, Maja.
Subs not used: Ruiter, Baldwin, Embleton, Hume.
Charlton Athletic: Phillips, Page, Bauer, Pearce (Sarr 90), Marshall, Taylor, Pratley, Aribo, Grant, Solly, Lapslie.
Subs not used: Ajose, Maynard-Brewer, Maloney, Hackett-Fairchild.