Manchester United loanee inspires Sunderland to huge win at Birmingham City
Sunderland survived a late barrage of their box to seal a crucial win in their last game before the World Cup break.
A goal and an assist for Amad had put them in an excellent position early in the second half but after a Lukas Jutkiewicz goal they had to come through relentless late pressure to secure the three points.
It was all the more important, and impressive, given the depleted squad Tony Mowbray has been working with.
Mowbray had hinted while looking fairly despondent in his pre-match press conference that an already injury challenging list had lengthened, and it transpired to be in the worst possible position. Dennis Cirkin unavailable and with Luke O’Nien suspended, options on the left flank minimal.
It meant a remarkable recall for Niall Huggins well ahead of schedule, a wonderful moment for the youngster but a challenging test all the same. It was the visitors who went closest with an excellent counter, Dan Neil breaking open the defence with a good pass on his weaker left foot. Amad was there to meet it but John Ruddy was alive to the danger, racing off his line to make a superb block. Birmingham served notice of their threat just minutes later when the recycled an initally cleared corner, Dion Sanderson flicking the cross into the path of Troy Deeney. His header was good and Patterson was beaten, but the ball bounced off the bar and clear.
That bright start gave way to a rather more pedestrian contest, a couple of injury delays taking the sting out of the game.
When the goal came on the half-hour mark it was a surprise and a moment of real quality. Amad drifted infield and despite almost going to ground with four Birmingham players towering over him, he managed to wriggle free and poke through a precise pass for Simms. The striker took a touch and made no mistake, firing across Ruddy into the far corner.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Sunderland had seen less of the ball and been a bit less fluid than you might normally expect, a reflection of their injury issues and a need to deny the hosts space.
By and large they did that well, but John Eustace’s side missed a golden opportunity to level when Deeney dropped deep and released Hogan with an excellent through ball. The striker looked certain to score, but Patterson stood tall and made an impressive block.
Mowbray’s side made it to the break unscathed and shortly afterwards yet another superb goal to their growing tally for the season. Neil draw the tackle from Hannibal just outside his own box and then spun away from it, driving forward and switching a perfect pass out to Amad in space on the right. He took the ball and just kept going, stepping inside once he reached the box and unfurling a glorious effort into the far corner.
Eustace turned quickly to his bench and with three genuine number nines on the pitch, a siege of the Sunderland box began. With thirteen minutes to play the pressure told, Wright failing to clear a low cross into the box and allowing substitute Jutkiewicz to convert with a first-time finish into the bottom corner.
Sunderland were struggling to cope with the barrage of long balls forward and only superb defensive awareness from Hume allowed him to clear an effort from Sanderson just in front of the line. Patterson did superbly to then race out and make a big block frm the rebounded effort. At this point, the equaliser felt if not inevitable then very much possible with over five minutes still left on the clock.
Countless late balls were fired into the box but Sunderland held their never and took three big points.