Exactly what happened and who impressed as Sunderland seal cup win with superb display
A superb Sunderland performance left Lee Johnson with a number of dilemmas as the Black Cats booked their place in round four of the Carabao Cup.
Nathan Broadhead’s first goal for the club set Johnson’s side on their way at the DW Stadium, with Luke O’Nien’s first-time finish capping an excellent second-half performance from the visiting side.
Wigan Athletic had followed the Black Cats in making extensive changes to the side that have started the league campaign in such strong fashion, but the hosts produced little.
It was a commanding display from a side who had so impressively beaten Blackpool in the previous round, underlining the strength in the squad.
Separated in the league only by goal difference, both sides have made promotion their clear priority this season and selected their sides accordingly.
Wigan Athletic made nine to Sunderland’s eight, with no room in the home squad for former Black Cats’ Max Power, Charlie Wyke and James McLean.
For Sunderland a number of players were handed a significant opportunity to make an impression; Leon Dajaku making his full debut on the right flank.
It was the Black Cats who took control of the contest right from the off, sharper in their movement both on and off the ball. They forged an opening just a minute in when Alex Pritchard drove forward from deep, sliding the ball infield for Luke O’Nien. The midfielder met it on the edge of the area, but could only curl his effort well over the crossbar.
Shortly after Dajaku had his first touch on the right flank, and showed good composure to wait for Pritchard to make a surging run into the box beside him. Pritchard’s effort was well blocked by the recovering Wigan defence, the ball deflecting over Amos and out for a corner.
Sunderland were dominating possession and territory, though clear-cut chances remained at a premium.
Recalled to the matchday squad Aiden O’Brien almost scored a stunning strike 17 minutes in, rushing onto a loose ball after good hold-up play from Broadhead. His first-time effort from range had Amos well beaten, but it drifted just wide of the far post.
The Irishman did well ten minutes later, realising that he was comfortably offside as Pritchard played a good through ball. He stepped infield, allowing Broadhead to pick it up and drive towards goal.
The striker had made some good early runs with little reward, and so was ready for the opportunity. Carrying the ball to just inside the Wigan box, he cut inside and curled a precise effort beyond Amos and into the far corner.
The visitors almost doubled their lead just a minute later, Cirkin picking up possession and driving forward. With no challenge forthcoming he kept going, eventually forcing a superb stop from Amos on the edge of the area.
Wigan looked to be on the ropes, but in truth that effort would precede a much more balanced passage of play.
For the first time Leam Richardson’s side would begin to enjoy some possession in the Wigan half, though Lee Burge remained untested.
The Black Cats almost found a second give minutes from the break, a poor pass allowing Dajaku to race through on goal. The winger was just unable to get the ball out of his feet in time, Amos rushing out to shut down his angle. Dajaku looked infield instead, and though Pritchard went down in the box as he tried to meet the pass, no penalty was given.
The tempo at the start of the second half from the visitors was excellent, regularly opening up space deep in the Wigan half. They were denied a secod only by some very fine margins with their final ball, but the pressure would only take ten minutes to yield a reward.
Niall Huggins was finding more and more space to drive forward, and burst into the box following some good play down the right flank. His low cross to the middle of the box was good, and turned home first time by Luke O’Nien on his weaker foot.
It had been a dominant start to the second half from the away side, though Wright did have to do well to make a block when a set piece dropped kindly for Curtis Tilt at the back post.
Aside from that they created little, Sunderland continuing to see more of the ball even if understandably, the tempo of the game generally began to slow.
A double-change brought fresh impetus, Ross Stewart and Elliot Embleton brought on for Dajaku and Pritchard.
Stewart immediately began to test a tiring defence, seeing an effort deflected just over the bar following an excellent exchange with Broadhead.
The Black Cats went close again shortly after, Stewart finding O’Brien wide on the right. The Irishman spotted a chance to shoot but sliced his effort, drifting comfortably wide of Amos’ near post.
He would have one more chance to get on the scoresheet, Embleton’s cross to the back post volleyed into the side netting.
That would be the last meaningful action of the half, with Sunderland’s fringe players underlining their credentials and sending a welcome message to their head coach.
Sunderland XI: Burge; Huggins (Neil, 79), Alves, Wright, Cirkin; Evans, O’Nien; Dajaku (Stewart, 70), Pritchard (Embleton, 70), O’Brien; Broadhead
Subs: Hoffmann, Flanagan, Doyle, Taylor
Wigan Athletic XI: Amos; Lloyd, Tilt, Kerr, Pearce; Cousins (Lang, 66), Massey (Adeeko, 84); Edwards (Sze, 90), Smith, Jones; Humphrys
Subs: Tickle, Carragher, Long, McHugh, Adeeko, Sze
Bookings: O’Nien, 45 Edwards, 55 Evans, 80 Embleton, 81
Attendance: 6,511 (1,674 away)