Sunderland 5-3 Carlisle United
Sunderland moved towards the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy with a group game to spare on Tuesday evening, after eventually securing a 5-3 win in an open spectacle against Carlisle United at the Stadium of Light.
Chris Maguire hit the target twice for the Black Cats, with Denver Hume and Charlie Wyke also finding the back of the net, followed by Jack Diamond’s scintillating finish in injury time.
Lewis Alessandra gave Carlisle the lead from the penalty spot early on, with Jon Mellish hitting a brace to give the away side hope in the second half.
The win sees the Lads keep a 100% record, topping Group A of the competition’s Northern section with a visit to Fleetwood Town still to come.
The Lads created the first chance, returning skipper Max Power taking just three minutes to test Magnus Norman in the Carlisle goal from 10 yards, following neat work from Dan Neil inside the area.
But it was the visitors who made the real early impact just moments later, as a storming run from Danny Devine saw him set through Ethan Walker, who went down under the challenge of the onrushing Remi Matthews to win a penalty. Alessandra thumped the kick into the bottom-left-hand corner to put the Cumbrians ahead.
Carlisle remained fearless in an open start, with Matthews then making a smart stop to deny Taylor Charters’ drive from 15 yards. Power returned the threat, receiving a Maguire
pass and striking over from just outside the visitors’ box.
Diamond and Neil continued to look promising for Phil Parkinson’s men, and a move involving the two saw Diamond pick out Power’s late arrival into the area, the captain knocking a first-time effort just wide.
And the persistence would pay off 26 minutes in, as Wyke drew a foul 25 yards from goal, the resulting free kick seeing Maguire’s shot deflecting past Norman into the net for the equaliser.
Carlisle were far from relenting, Max Hunt’s header causing problems and deflecting just wide, shortly after Chris Beech was forced into a change with Mellish replacing the injured Ethan Walker.
But the open game once again swung towards the Black Cats. A neat exchange between Hume and Maguire ended in a cool finish from Hume, slotting it past Norman with eight minutes left of the half and tilting Sunderland in front at the break.
Ten minutes into the second half, it was three for Parkinson’s team, and a second of the night for Maguire. Initially looking second-favourite to a flicked header from Wyke, Maguire chased down the loose ball and muscled George Tanner away from the scene, before sending a calm shot into the bottom corner.
As the hour mark went by and the tempo simmered somewhat with Sunderland in the driving seat, Maguire was inches away from claiming his hat-trick when he met Luke O’Nien’s cross from the left channel, heading just past the far post. Teenage midfielder Neil was next to try his luck, striking off target from distance.
Before long, number four arrived. A slick close passing move on the left-hand side saw Maguire go for goal once more, and with the shot too hot to handle for ‘keeper Norman, the Cumbrians’ stopper parried it out to Wyke, on hand to tuck it away and get his name on the scoresheet.
In a far from dull contest, the visitors were not finished. First-half substitute Mellish pulled one back with a near-post header for Beech’s men, arriving to meet a dangerous corner delivery for 4-2 with 18 minutes to go.
Alessandra then stung the palms of Matthews with a left-footed strike and Joe Riley fired over from range, before Danny Graham and Aiden O’Brien were introduced by the boss.
But North East local boy Mellish fired home for Carlisle again, drilling an emphatic finish into the roof of the net with eight minutes remaining to make the final stages nail-biting.
It was Diamond who had the final say, blasting home a fifth in some style to make it game, set and match.
Sunderland: Matthews, O’Nien, Wright, Taylor (Willis 85’), Diamond, Dobson, Power ©, Neil (O’Brien 75’), Hume, Maguire, Wyke (Graham 75’).
Subs not used: Burge, Gooch, Leadbitter, Younger.
Carlisle United: Norman, Tanner, Devine, Hunt, Hayden ©, Riley, Alessandra, Charters (Bell 54’), Armer, Malley (Guy 72’), Walker (Mellish 27’).
Subs not used: Dewhurst, Anderton, McDonald, Armstrong.