This is exactly how it played out as Aiden O'Brien hat-trick snatches outstanding cup win for Sunderland

An Aiden O’Brien hat-trick sealed a superb, thrilling win for Sunderland in the dying seconds of their Carabao Cup clash with Blackpool.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 9:39 pm

A spirited and lively Sunderland side looked to be heading for the tension of a penalty shootout when substitute Josh Bowler equalised just before stoppage time for the hosts, but an O’Brien header sent the travelling support into delirium.

The Black Cats had fought back from an early Shayne Lavery strike to take an impressive lead through O’Brien’s strikes, a youthful side showing plenty of ambition and flair against Championship opponents.

Blackpool had battled back impressively from two goals down away at AFC Bournemouth on Saturday, and even with a raft of changes from Neil Critchley boasted a strong side always likely to pose a stern test for Johnson’s young side.

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Aiden O'Brien celebrates his second goal at Bloomfield Road

Perhaps unsurprisingly his new-look XI struggled a little for cohesion and conviction in the opening minutes, the hosts making a powerful start and pushing the Black Cats onto the back foot.

Reece James, now playing in a midfield role, had the first attempt of the game when CJ Hamilton broke down the right and cut a pass back to the edge of the area. James tried to control his effort but sliced it high and wide.

They had an even better chance just moments later, John-Jules getting free in the box but shooting straight at Anthony Patterson from just yards out.

Sunderland began to settle, and conceded just as they were beginning to get a real foothold.

Huggins in particular was finding his feet, carrying the ball forward with speed and poise.

It was a soft goal to gift up, John-Jules finding it far too easy to get into the box and square a low pass across the face of goal. Lavery was able to get ahead of his marker and the finish was good, diverting the ball past Patterson and into the far corner.

A setback for Johnson’s side, but one they responded to impressively.

Restored to his natural midfield role, Neil heard and early call from Aiden O’Brien and cut the Blackpool pass open with a superb through ball. The Irishman finished with conviction, easily turning his firs-time effort past Grimshaw and into the bottom corner.

Both Neil and Carl Winchester were staking a claim for a more permanent midfield berth, moving the ball forward with real conviction.

They combined well with O’Brien to release Broadhead 25 minutes in, and while the Everton loanee did well to get the ball out from under his feet, his effort was too weak and straight at Grimshaw.

Sunderland were just about the better side, though Blackpool’s speed and quality in the wide areas meant they were always a threat.

They almost restored the lead when the visitors failed to cope with a long ball down the middle, Lavery’s connection ultimately poor and straight at Patterson.

It was still Sunderland making the best chances by and large, Broadhead meeting a good chipped pass from Pritchard and firing into the top corner, only to find the linesman had raised his flag and that he had made his move inside the box a little early.

O’Brien had another gilt-edged opening when he broke through to meet a ling ball over the top from Bailey Wright, but like Lavery he couldn’t find the poor required and his sliced effort drifted wide.

Blackpool broke down the other end with real intent, and Carey looked certain to equalise when James made an excellent decision to square a ball from the left of the box. Wright intervened, making a firm clearance with his boot to ensure the two sides went into the break level after an immensely entertaining half.

The hosts started the second half the better, both James and Lavery spurning good chances to test Patterson from the edge of the area.

Sunderland still looked bright when they were able to get in possession, and took the lead after a nice move down the right led to the first corner of the half. Pritchard whipped it in and O’Brien did well to lose his marker and drift to the back post. Blackpool rushed to close him down, but couldn’t get there quick enough and when his firm drive took a wicked deflection of Gretarsson, Grimshaw had no chance of making the save.

The hosts unsurprisingly began to take control of possession, but were struggling to create any real chances as Sunderland defended resolutely.

Neil Critchley turned to his bench and talisman Jerry Yates, who almost made an immediate impact with ten minutes to play.

He broke free from Huggins and drove into the bench, drawing a quite superb save from Patterson as he cut a fierce effort back towards the near post.

It looked as if Sunderland had come through the worst of the pressure but when the equaliser came with just minutes to play, it was a self-inflicted one.

Doyle had replaced Alves as the Dane struggled with a minor injury, and had made some important interventions.

But his slack pass out form the back allowed the hosts to counter and when Anderson cut the ball back for Bowler, Patterson could do nothing about his low drive into the far corner.

Penalties looked certain, but Huggins and Diamond combined well down the right to tee up O’Brien for the winner.

It was a move started by Doyle, driving out the back under pressure.

That response to his error summed up this impressive side.

Blackpool XI: Grimshaw, Casey, Keogh, Gretarsson, Garbutt, Hamilton (Anderson, 78) , Antwi (Bowler, 69), Carey, James, John-Jules, Lavery (Yates, 78)

Subs: Moore, Husband, Yates, Anderson, Bowler, Ekpiteta, Holmes

Sunderland XI: Patterson; Huggins, Alves (Doyle, 75), Wright, Cirkin; Neil, Winchester; Diamond, Pritchard (Embleton, 73), Broadhead (Stewart, 73); O’Brien

Subs: Bond, Gooch, Taylor, Hawkes

Bookings:

Attendance: 5,756

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