Plymouth Argyle 2-0 Sunderland AFC
Sunderland AFC’s return to action following the winter international break ended in defeat, as Plymouth Argyle sealed a 2-0 win at Home Park.
The Black Cats made a strong start to proceedings on the South Coast, but they failed to take their chances and Morgan Whittaker made they pay before the half-hour mark.
Finn Azaz doubled the Pilgrims’ lead before the interval, although the half-time introductions of Adil Aouchiche and Eliezer Mayenda did turn the tide.
Trai Hume headed against the post and Aouchiche volleyed wide, with Jack Clarke denied at point-blank range entering the final stages.
Mayenda also struck the side netting before the final whistle confirmed a frustrating result on the road.
Dan Ballard and Luke O’Nien returned to the staring XI, with the defensive duo back in action after serving respective one-match suspensions.
Nazariy Rusyn impressed last time out and the Ukrainian once again led the line, flanked by Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts.
The duo led the early charge as Sunderland started on the front foot, with Clarke dancing beyond several Argyle defenders before finding Roberts, who had his attempt blocked.
Rusyn also had two early sights at goal, but the forward was denied by an out-stretched leg before heading wide with less than seven minutes played.
Plymouth regrouped after a slow start and two moments of quality ensured they entered the break with a commanding lead.
Whittaker’s superb solo strike shattered the deadlock with 24 minutes played, with Azaz doubling the Pilgrim’s advantage after he seized on an incisive first-time pass by Luke Cundle.
Jobe struck the post before the break and Hume headed against the woodwork after the restart, with Aouchiche and Mayenda both introduced at the interval.
The former made an immediate impact and he was unlucky not to reduce the arrears, as the Lads stepped things up a notch and the Frenchman twice fired just off target.
Michael Cooper then spilled Clarke’s effort and the noise levels cranked up further in a packed-out away end, which grew increasingly expectant.
However, Plymouth managed to regain a foothold in the stages that followed and Mowbray once again looked to his bench, as Jenson Seelt, Abdoullah Ba and Bradley Dack entered the fray with 25 minutes remaining.
The Lads continued to push forward in search of a route back into the contest, but Plymouth held firm to claim the points.
Plymouth Argyle: Cooper, Mumba, Houghton, Pleguezuelo, Edwards, Whittaker (Galloway 88), Gibson, Azaz (Butcher 88), Waine (Bundu 73), Cundle (Randall 73), Kesler-Hayden.
Subs not used: Scarr, C Wright, Warrington, Hazard, T Wright.
Sunderland AFC: Patterson, Ballard, O’Nien, Hume, Huggins (Seelt 66), Ekwah (Aouchiche 45), Neil, Jobe (Dack 66), Roberts (Ba 66), Clarke, Rusyn (Mayenda 45).
Substitutes: Bishop, Triantis, Pritchard, Hemir.