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Black Cats bounce back
Final Score: Sunderland 4 MK Dons 2
ONE thing’s for sure at Sunderland, it isn’t going to be dull under Paolo Di Canio.
The Black Cats manager has talked repeatedly about the task of trying to change the losing mentality at the club. Up until the 78th minute of last night’s Capital One Cup second round tie against MK Dons it appeared the message was struggling to get through.
However, out of nowhere and thanks to four goals in the final 17 minutes, the penny appeared to have finally dropped when Sunderland snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in dramatic circumstances.
After Patrick Bamford and Izale McLeod had stunned the Stadium of Light into silence, it looked as though the Black Cats were heading for an early cup exit and a deserved dressing down from their fiery boss.
They will inevitably get that for their performance in the first 75 minutes, but the overriding feeling on Wearside last was relief when Jozy Altidore, Adam Johnson and a Connor Wickham brace saved the day.
Despite talking up the Capital One Cup’s importance in his pre-match press conference, Di Canio made six changes to his starting line-up with Steven Fletcher also returning from injury to take his place on the bench.
There were starts for Vito Mannone, Valentin Roberge, David Vaughan, David Moberg Karlsson and Ji, while Cabral was also recalled, but Di Canio already had his first team regulars warming up early in the first half.
It was hardly the start the Italian had envisaged for his changed side when the Stadium of Light was shocked into silence in the seventh minute.
MK Dons had wasted little time asserting their authority on the game and some sloppy play for Ji led to Dele Alli setting up Patrick Bamford to finish from 22 yards.
The Black Cats were shell-shocked and almost found themselves two goals down when Mannone had to react quickly after Cabral cleared Stephen Gleeson’s free-kick towards his own net.
The hosts’ early frustrations were summed up when Johnson crossed to Moberg Karlsson, but the youngster completely missed the ball.
The League One outfit continued their early domination and Izale McLeod went close to making it two after out-running Jack Colback and firing wide.
It took Sunderland until midway through the first half to get a shot on target against their lower league opponents, but Jozy Altidore’s speculative free-kick was easily gathered by Ian McLoughlin.
The American is yet to find the net since his £6m move from AZ Alkmaar, but he had his best chance yet when his lovely curling effort from the left edge of the box hit the post. The rebound fell to Moberg Karlsson, but he only half controlled and tamely headed at the McLoughlin.
Surprisingly, there were no changes for the hosts at half-time, but whatever was said inside the Black Cats dressing room didn’t exactly work in a way Di Canio would hope.
Izale Mcleod lifts the ball over keeper Vito Mannone to put MK Dons two goals up
One minute after the break, Dons captain Stephen Gleeson blasted over from long range, but less than ten minutes later, the unthinkable happened.
From a wasted Sunderland attack, Alli collected the ball and sent McLeod racing through and the MK Dons striker produced a finish worthy of the Premier League when he coolly chipped Mannone to put his side two up.
Di Canio responded by making two more changes after Wickham had replaced Ji five minutes after the restart with Seb Larsson and Charis Mavrias coming on for Cabral and Moberg Karlsson.
The changes did seem to brighten the hosts up with Wickham and Johnson both seeing shots saved, but it wasn’t until 12 minutes from time that the Black Cats finally came alive.
Wickham’s flick on sent Altidore clear and the USA international made no mistake finishing low to give the Stadium of Light a glimmer of hope that the tie was not dead.
The goal had given the entire stadium a lift and when Johnson found the ball on the right of the box and fed Celustka on the byline, he pulled back to Wickham, who finished on the turn.
The England Under-21 international has endured a difficult time since his £8m move from Ipswich, but he came up trumps when he put the Black Cats ahead with a deflected shot in the 90th minute.
Johnson, who had been one of Sunderland’s best players all night made sure his side would be in the third round with a brilliant solo effort seconds before full time.
Wickham shoots to put Sunderland 3-2 in front
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