Stunning Lynden Gooch header seals Sunderland fightback against Charlton Athletic

If the first half had felt like a brutal reality check, then the second offered so much reassurance for the season ahead.

Saturday, 4th August 2018, 2:33 pm
Updated Saturday, 4th August 2018, 2:38 pm
Josh Maja celebrates his equalising goal

For much of the first half Sunderland were outplayed and outfought by a tough and resilient Charlton side.

After some tactical tweaks from Jack Ross they were a different prospect in the second, fluid, dynamic and well worthy of the three points.

It was a delirious ending to a challenging game, Lynden Gooch stooping at the far post to head in Bryan Oviedo's stunning cross.

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Ross and his backroom staff celebrated wildly as the 31,000 Sunderland fans hailed a new beginning.

The Black Cats endured a wretched opening half an hour in front a bumper crowd, outfought in every area of the pitch by an impressive Charlton.

Lyle Taylor had been a target for Sunderland in the summer and it was easy to see why right from the off, the centre-forward dovetailing well with Karlan Grant and causing problems for the host's new-look defence.

Taylor had a superb opportunity when he flashed a free-kick over the bar from the edge of the area, but Charlton had the lead within ten minutes.

Grant spun away from Glenn Loovens near the halfway line and ran into space. Chris Maguire made a desperate attempt to halt his progress in the box but there were few complaints when the referee pointed to the spot.

Jon McLaughlin guessed the direction right but was beaten by Taylor's confident effort.

It could have two in the following moments, McLaughlin saving well when Darren Pratley drove from distance. From the following corner, Jason Pearce met the ball at close range but could only head wide.

Their best chance came half an hour in, George Lapslie left in acres of space as he made a late run into the box. He had time and space to pick his spot but could only fire straight at McLaughlin.

Sunderland were struggling to create any real openings and registered their first shot on target just minutes from the interval.

Bryan Oviedo, who replaced the injured Donald Love midway through the half, attacked from distance but his effort was easily saved by Dillon Phillips. Sunderland did come close to equalising before the break, with Ozturk just unable to connect with Loovens' flick-on after a clever corner routine.

Within moments, Josh Maja had a precious chance to score when Maguire's scuffed effort fell at his feet, but his first touch was poor and Phillips was able to narrow the angle and block.

Jack Ross had seen enough and reshuffled his pack at half-time.

Jerome Sinclair replaced Luke O'Nien, with Adam Matthews moving to centre-back in a 3-5-2 system.

Without creating any clear cut chances, Sunderland were instantly in the ascendancy, finding more space and fluidity in their attacking play.

Loovens and Ozturk also looked reassured by the extra support as they coped with the lively Taylor.

Despite the improvements, the equalising goal came from nowhere. There seemed to be little danger when Maja received the ball with back to goal, but his instinctive spin and shot caught Phillips off guard and founds its way in at the near post.

It was almost two with fifteen minutes to play, Phillips doing well to turn Maguire's superb free-kick away. Sunderland recovered the ball and a good cross from Lynden Gooch found Maja, but the young striker couldn't quite generate enough power to beat the goalkeeper.

The hosts came within inches of sending the Stadium of Light into delirium when Oviedo fired a low drive across goal, Sinclair connecting but pushing the ball just wide of the far post.

That looked to be the last real opening of the game, particularly when Gooch couldn't control a flat Maguire corner in stoppage time.

But Gooch stayed alive, curving a run to the far post where he stooped to convert a beautiful cross from Oviedo.

At one stage it threatened to be the same old story.

Now, it looks to be the start of a very different chapter.

Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; Love (Oviedo, 26), Ozturk, Loovens, Matthews; Mumba, Honeyman, O'Nien (Sinclair, 45); Maguire, Maja, Gooch

Subs: Ruiter, Baldwin, Embleton, Hume, Molyneux (Sinclair, 90)

Charlton Athletic Xi: Phillips; Solly, Bauer, Pearce (Sarr, 90), Page; Lapslie, Aribo, Pratley, Marshall; Taylor, Grant

Subs: Ajose, Maynard-Brewer, Maloney, Hackett-Fairchild

Bookings: Maguire, 8 Page, 34 Bauer, 42 Solly, 81 Gooch, 87

Attendance: 31,079