Will Grigg, Tom Flanagan and George Dobson score as Sunderland thump Burnley 3-1
Two well-worked corners stunned the home crowd at Turf Moor as a tenacious Black Cats XI earned a fully deserved victory.
Sunderland had to fight back from an early Jay Rodriguez goal to level and were bouyed by a first goal of the campaign for Will Grigg.
Both sides had announced their intent to make multiple changes long before kick-off, with crucial league games looming on the horizon.
Jack Ross had made eight, giving a first competitive start of the campaign to Jack Baldwin and moving Luke O’Nien into attacking midfield.
Burnley made ten changes, but named a side packed with established Premier League and international talent.
It was an open contest right from the off, with the away side showing no intention of sitting in and defending for the majority of the game. Both sides committed bodies forward on the break, and it was the talented Dwight McNeil who had the first effort of note when he dragged a low effort wide of the post from outside the area.
Sunderland posed a threat of their own and went close when O’Nien teed up Elliot Embleton ,who turned wonderfully to take two defenders out of the game, curling his effort over the bar.
The power and quality of the home side was obvious and they ruthlessly punished Sunderland’s first error of note.
Defender Kevin Long fired a long ball forward from the channel, with Dylan McGeouch’s first touch just too heavy. WIth his fellow midfielders advanced, Burnley broke at speed. Matej Vydra drove at Baldwin and did superbly to turn back inside and release Jay Rodriguez, who advanced on goal and had the simplest of finishes past Burge.
That rocked Sunderland who began to struggle, the Premier League side moving the ball with real purpose. Vydra and Rodriguez in particular were causing all sorts of problems as they pulled into space and dragged the opposition out of position.
They should have extended their lead just before the half-hour mark when Aaron Lennon found space on the edge of the area, striking the post with a fine low drive. The rebound fell straight to Vydra who had an open goal, but himself fired off the opposite post as Burge tried to scramble across.
The Black Cats broke quickly as Denver Hume drove into space, and George Dobson should have done better when he turned his low cross wide of the far post.
When the equaliser came there was a slice of fortune about it, but it was a good counter as Embleton again released Hume down the left. His pass inside was intercepted by debutant Danny Drinkwater, but he turned the ball straight to Grigg who took one touch before emphatically finishing.
It was a nerveless finish and fair reward for the striker’s tireless running into the channels during what had been an often difficult half.
Sunderland had finished the half the stronger side and took the lead just minutes into the second.
The Black Cats took a short corner to the edge of the area, where Lynden Gooch drove a firm effort low to Hart’s right. The goalkeeper got down to save but palmed it straight into the path of Tom Flanagan, who stooped to head home.
Remarkably, they extended their lead just two minutes later, with another short corner routine.
They moved the ball quickly to the edge of the area where Dobson was in acres of space, firing a precise effort into the bottom-left corner.
Sunderland were dominant, playing most of the game in Burnley’s half.
Burge had to do well to twice deny Kevin Long, however, as the centre-back towered over his header to nod towards goal.
Though they were unable to convert it into clear openings, the Black Cats were causing constant errors on the ball from the home side, the energy of their front four, allied with George Dobson, forcing a number of aimless long balls forward.
With McGeouch picking up good positions behind, they were in control of the game and still looked the most likely to score again.
Burnley did retain a threat, particularly as Sean Dyche threw on an extra forward in Chris Wood. He was immediately intot he game as an excellent sliding tackle from Dobson diverted the ball fortuitously into his path, Baldwin doing superbly to get down and block.
Burnley started to apply the pressure in the final quarter but Sunderland stood up to well, Dobson embodying the industry of his team as he flew into challenges and made countless interceptions.
The Black Cats saw out three minutes of injury time with little trouble to seal the win.
Sunderland XI: Burge; McLaughlin, Baldwin, Flanagan, Hume; McGeouch, Dobson, Embleton, O’Nien (Power, 85), Gooch; Grigg (Wyke, 77)
Subs: Patterson, Ozturk, Kimpioka, Sammut, Diamond
Burnley XI: Hart; Bardsley (Lowton, 77), Gibson, Long, Taylor; Lennon (Wood, 69), Hendrick, Drinkwater, McNeil; Vydra, Rodriguez
Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Pieters, Cork, Dunne, Richardson
Attendance: 7,445 (1,093 away)