The moment that will have excited Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Sunderland's penalty debate: What you might have missed at MK Dons

Many will have seen the highlights of Sunderland’s 2-1 win at MK Dons – but there were a few moments the cameras may have missed.

Sunday, 15th August 2021, 7:19 pm

Goals from Ross Stewart and Elliot Embleton either side of half-time gave Lee Johnson’s side a two-goal cushion before Troy Parrott pulled one back for the hosts.

Lynden Gooch missed the chance to prevent a nervy finish when his penalty was saved by Andrew Fisher six minutes from time, but Sunderland held on.

Here are some of the moments you may have missed from the game.

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Sunderland fans at MK Dons.

Fans really do make an impact

Let’s start with the fans. How good was it to see a packed away end again!

Last weekend a crowd of 31,549 returned to the Stadium of Light for Sunderland’s league opener against Wigan, and at Stadium MK the Red & White Army were out in force again.

As Black Cats boss Lee Johnson said after the game, the 3,000-strong contingent helped spur the side on, and the scenes when Embleton doubled Sunderland’s lead were what we’ve sorely missed for too long.

One of the things we’ve learnt over the last 18 months is that supporters certainly do make a difference.

When MK Dons pulled a goal back in the 56th minute, the home fans also responded and gave their team a lift in the closing stages.

Sunderland hung on though, and Johnson was quick to praise the travelling Wearsiders after the win.

"They were the ones who kept us honest and with a game without fans we may well have conceded in there,” admitted the Black Cats boss.

That was an interesting observation, especially as Sunderland dropped 25 points from winning positions as they missed out on an automatic promotion place last term.

Black Cats supporters made an impact as their side came from behind against Wigan, and did so again here. If Sunderland can use that to their advantage, it will be a big asset.

Lee Johnson’s tactical switch

As Sunderland came under pressure in the closing stages, Johnson opted to change his side’s shape with 18 minutes remaining

After starting the match in the Black Cats’ accustomed 4-2-3-1 system, the visitors introduced centre-back Bailey Wright and Aiden O’Brien, with debutant left-back Dennis Cirkin and Aiden McGeday making way.

It meant a switch to a back three and wing-backs to match MK Dons up, with the hosts beginning to find more joy on the flanks.

Wright, 29, slotted in alongside Callum Doyle and Tom Flanagan in the heart of defence and produced a strong cameo.

There has been a lot of talk about Wright’s future this summer, with Wigan Athletic reportedly interested, yet the Aussie showed his value by winning some important headers and interceptions.

This was a young Sunderland starting XI which included three teenagers in Doyle, Dan Neil and Cirkin, so Wright’s experience proved extremely valuable.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus continues to back the Lads

This is nothing new, but Sunderland’s young owner has been in regular attendance home and away since before the club’s takeover was completed earlier this year.

The 24-year-old Frenchman wasn’t clearly visible at Stadium MK but did share a picture of his view high in the stands via his Instagram story, before posting a picture of the Sunderland supporters.

It will have been the first time Louis-Dreyfus had seen a packed away end in the flesh, and the Black Cats owner will surely have enjoyed the jubalent celebrations when Embleton made it 2-0 in front of the away end.

The businessman’s regular appearances should be seen as a positive, as he continues to track the team’s progress without overshadowing their performances on the pitch.

An anxious moment for Tom Flanagan

As MK Dons finished strongly, there was an anxious moment when the home fans were calling for Tom Flanagan to be sent off 12 minutes from time.

The Sunderland defender collided with Dons playmaker Scott Twine after the latter had been released through on goal by Matt O'Riley, and supporters felt Flanagan was the Black Cats’ last man.

MK Dons players were quick to let their feelings known to referee James Bell, who reached for a card amid calls from the stands.

Thankfully the colour was yellow, which was the correct decision as Lynden Gooch would have been able to cover if Flanagan hadn’t committed the foul.

Sunderland’s penalty debate

With six minutes remaining, the Black Cats could have made the final few moments – plus seven minutes of stoppage-time – a whole lot easier.

When MK Dons defender Harry Darling clipped Stewart in the box and a penalty was awarded, the Sunderland forward quickly made his way to the loose ball.

With regular penalty taker McGeady off the pitch, the Scottish frontman will have fancied himself to add a second goal to his name from 12 yards.

There was a conversation between Stewart and Gooch, who had been handed the captain’s armband following the withdrawal of Corry Evans, before Gooch stepped up to take the spot kick.

The winger’s penalty was tame, and comfortable for Dons keeper Fisher to save low to his left-hand side.

Thankfully it didn’t prove costly, but it did leave Sunderland under the cosh in the closing stages.

Gooch was quick to apologise after the match, taking to Twitter to deliver this message: “Apologies to everyone for the penalty miss, created unneeded pressure but we all dug in and got the win over the line! Onto the next.”

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