This is how it played out as Sunderland take a big Championship leap with impressive Millwall win
Sunderland moved within one point of the play-off places after grinding out a hugely significant win against Millwall on their Championship return.
Tony Mowbray’s side had struggled to impose themselves for much of the first half but turned the contest on its head in a brilliant phase of second-half play, with Amad and Alex Pritchard scoring well-worked goals.
Millwall’s threat diminished and in the end the hosts managed the final stages impressively to move seven points away from the bottom three, Ellis Simms adding a richly-deserved third with seconds to play.
Gary Rowett’s looked the far sharper of the two to begin with, and only an excellent block from Corry Evans prevented George Honeyman from making a goalscoring return to the Stadium of Light when he met a cross from close range.
Sunderland weren’t retaining possession well enough and it was inviting prressure and set plays from an opponent who thrives on them. They continued to threaten and when Tom Bradshaw met a long ball and headed over Anthony Patterson it looked as if they were set to take a deserve lead. Danny Batth did superbly, racing to make a first-time clearance just in front of the line.
The Black Cats did begin to start making an impact as a fairly turgid half developed, and it was no coincidence that this came as Amad began to see more of the ball on the right flank. The winger had the host’s best chance of the half, just unable to get a shot away in time after Clarke had driven infield and teed up him with a low cross. Ellis Simms then forced a save from Long as Mowbray’s side finally began to start asking some questions in the final third.
They did have one major scare just before the interval, Anthony Patterson playing a pass straight to Zian Flemming under pressure. The Dutchman probably had time to take a touch and score, but took the effort on first time and dragged it wide of the post.
Though the tempo was still relatively sluggish Sunderland continued to probe after the break and they had their reward within ten minutes. Pritchard did excellently to spin away from a challenge on the left flank and drove to the byline, driving a low cross into a dangerous area. Simms did excellently to backheel it in the general direction of the Millwall goal, where Amad was waiting to drive it home and claim his fourth goal in six games.
The visitors responded immediately, denied only by a brilliant Dan Neil clearance on the line from a corner.
Sunderland rode that spell of pressure and struck again, Amad breaking the Millwall defence open with a fine through ball. Lynden Gooch was brave and that allowed him to burst by his marker. He cut it back for Pritchard and though it looked for a moment and if he’d delayed the shot too long, he held his nerve and drove an effort to the near post. Long got a hand to it but having seen it late he couldn’t complete the save.
Millwall continued to put Sunderland’s box under pressure but the hosts were a threat on the break, Simms just unable to meet one cross to the front post before Neil fired an effort wide on his weaker foot.
Millwall did have a number of set pieces in the closing stages of the game but in truth Sunderland were never really flustered and held out with impressive poise – capitalising late on when Simms burst through the defence and too the ball round Long to score.
Sunderland XI: Patterson; Gooch, Batth, O’Nien, Alese; Evans, Pritchard (Embleton, 62), Neil; Clarke (Cirkin, 80), Simms, Amad (Roberts, 74)
Subs: Bass, Dajaku, Hume, Ba
Millwall XI: Long, McNamara (Evans, 82), Wallace (Malone, 82), Cooper, Mitchell, Bradshaw, Flemming, Cresswell, Voglsammer (Bennett, 66), Saville (Shackleton, 66), Honeyman (Styles, 66)
Subs: Bialkowski, Hutchinson
Bookings: Saville, 21 Honeyman, 33 Mitchell, 40 Gooch, 72