Benji Kimpioka rescues point for Sunderland with last-gasp equaliser against Coventry City
Susbstitue Benji Kimopioka rescued a point for Sunderland in the last minute of their vital League One clash with Coventry City.
The Black Cats had laboured for much of the contest after Dominic Hyam’s first-half goal but salvaged a point in the dying moments when the Swede fired home from close range as the away side failed to clear their lines.
A desperate run of form in cup competitions had raised the pressure on Sunderland coming into this pair of home fixtures, the Black Cats losing ground on the top sides in the division.
It started in an open fashion, both sides playing with a good tempo but withpout much quality in possession.
Right from the off, it was clear that the visitors would attack in numbers and play out from the bac no matter what, a high-risk strategy that offered chances for Sunderland when they pressed well, but saw them quickly carved open when they didn’t.
It was the hosts who had the first sight of goal, but Chris Maguire fired his free-kick from the edge of the area well over the crossbar.
Coventry began to settle and Lee Burge was forced into an early save when Zain Westbrooke took aim from distance, forcing a good stop from the Black Cats keeper as he scrambled back towards the top corner of his goal.
Striker Amadou Bakayoko was finding plenty of space at the top of an unorthodox formation, four central midfielders pouncing on any loose balls into dagerous areas and quickly breaking in numbers.
Bakayoko should have done better when he gathered a pass inside the box, but his effort on the turn was tame and straight at Burge.
Sunderland did enjoy some sporadic spells of possession, but has as been the case in recent games, struggled to turn that into shots on target, Marko Marosi largely untroubled in the Coventry goal.
The they came was when a low cross was fired into the box from the right, Max Power and Will Grigg getting in each other’s way and allowing the defence to clear.
Coventry took the lead shortly after, a self-inflicted goal from Sunderland’s perspective. Burge initially did superbly to deny Bakayoko after Maguire played him through with a terrible backpass.
The home side switched off from the following corner, taken short and floated to the back post by Liam Walsh. Sunderland lost two headers Kyle McFadzean nodding back across goal where Dominic Hyman was quickest to react, heading into the top corner.
The away side contineud to look the more threatening side on the counter, and Sunderland were indebted to Jordan Willis for making two outstanding late blocks to deny Bakayoko just as he looked set to pull the trigger and double his side’s advantage.
Despite their struggles, Sunderland did carve out one clear opening when Denver Hume made an outstanding drive from the left flank, driving infield and towards goal. His pass released Will Grigg but his effort one-on-one was too close to Marosi who palmed clear.
The referee pulled play back for a foul on Hume, but McGeady’s effort was straight at the goalkeeper.
The game began to open up further as half-time approached, and Bakayoko missed another gilt-edged opening to put his side two up when the Black Cats again lost possession near their own goal.
The danger looked to have passed when Coventry delayed their attack inside the box, but a loose ball looped up for the centre-forward, who beat Burge but somehow headed wide with the goal gaping.
If a frustrated home support had expected a reaction in the second half, they did not get one.
Coventry looked comfortable in possession, Sunderland barely pressing in advanced areas of the pitch.
It was the away side who had the first meaningful effort of the half just after the hour mark, Burge doing well in the wet conditions to cleanly gather a firm low drive from Jordan Shipley.
The Black Cats finally began to show signs of life as Parkinson shuffled his pack, Duncan Watmore replacing Power in search of more bodies in the final third.
McGeady cut inside from the effort and took aim with a fine low effort, Marosi doing superbly to get down to his left and save.
For the first time in the contest, Coventry were beginning to look leggy out of possession and nervy in it.
Turning that into concrete opportunities was the challenge for Sunderland, and though Watmore threatened down the right, they were struggling to do it with any regularity.
They had a big opening when pounced on a loose pass, but instead of squaring for the unmarked Watmore, he took aim and saw his shot blocked.
It looked like the away side would hold on for the win but as they failed to clear their lines, a loose ball fell to the feet of Kimpiokla and his finish on his left foot was excellent, leaving Marosi with no chance.
Sunderland XI: Burge; O’Nien, Willis (Flanagan, 68), Lynch, Hume; Leadbitter, Power (Watmore, 66), Dobson; Maguire, McGeady, Grigg (Kimpioka, 82)
Subs: McLaughlin, Ozturk, McGeouch, De Bock
Coventry City XI: Marosi; Dabo, Rose, McFadzean, Hyam, Mason; Kelly, Walsh, Shipley (O’Hare, 74), Westbrooke (Allen, Jamie, 90); Bakayoko (Allen, Jordy, 74)
Subs: Wilson, Watson, McCallum, Kastaneer
Bookings: Dabo, 77 Dobson, 82 McGeady, 90