Sunderland 1-0 Bradford City
Over 46,000 people descended on the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day, and Jack Ross’ Sunderland rose to the challenge by securing a 1-0 win over Bradford City.
In front of numbers bettered only by Manchester United and Liverpool on the day, the Lads were in charge throughout.
Aiden McGeady grabbed the goal that mattered before the break, but plenty of second-half drama ensured entertainment until the final seconds.
Bradford, who entered the game in decent form, fought back following the restart, and on another day, they might well have equalised.
The Black Cats stood firm, though, and provided the perfect response after defeat at Fratton Park.
Ross was able to call upon Tom Flanagan and Josh Maja after the duo didn’t feature against Portsmouth, while Charlie Wyke featured on the bench following a return to action.
Adam Matthews and George Honeyman missed out, though, as Lee Cattemole skippered the side.
An electric atmosphere welcomed the sides into battle, and although the Lads started on the front foot, Bradford mustered the first shot on goal.
After Lee Cattermole’s superb challenge was alleged to have been a foul, David Ball curled a 25-yard free-kick high and wide.
Sunderland’s first real opening was just around the corner, with Maja wriggling away from his marker and slamming an effort across the face of goal.
The right flank proved an extremely fruitful route into opposition territory throughout, with Luke O’Nien and Lynden Gooch putting the Bantams on the front foot.
But the next opening came via the left channel, as Bryan Oviedo’s wicked cross was flicked agonisingly wide by Maja.
The sides continued to trade blows, as Jack Payne fired off target before Jack Baldwin headed straight at Richard O’Donnell, and sooner or later, something had to give.
With 31 minutes played, it did.
Sunderland piled forward and peppered O’Donnell’s goal, with the Bantams’ stopper spilling the ball and allowing McGeady to shatter the deadlock from close range.
Maja threatened soon after and McGeady tested O’Donnell before the break, but it remained 1-0 at the interval.
After the restart, Lewis O’Brien stole in and rounded Jon McLaughlin, but O’Nien read the move to perfection and was able to clear the ball to safety.
A penalty shout followed as Max Power dived in on Ball, but referee Darren England waved play on.
And further controversy followed, as McLaughlin seemingly fumbled the ball over the line before clawing it back, only for the officials to wave play on.
The day belonged to Sunderland, and the final whistle sparked scenes of jubilation on and off the pitch.
Sunderland: McLaughlin, Flanagan, Baldwin, O’Nien, Oviedo, Cattermole, Power, Maguire (McGeouch 87), McGeady, Gooch, Maja (Watmore 75).
Substitutes: Ruiter, Ozturk, Wyke, James, Sinclair.
Bradford City: O’Donnell, Chicksen (O’Connor 88), Doyle (J O’Brien 80), Payne, Miller, Akpan (Brunker 85), Knight-Percival, Caddis, L O’Brien, Ball.
Subs not used: Wilson, Wood, Devine, Goldthorp.