Sunderland 1-1 Derby County: Black Cats Fail to Find Their Feet on Opening Night
Sunderland have continued their opening day rut, which has now extended to eight season curtain raiser's without a win, with a 1-1 draw with Derby County at the Stadium of Light.
The match began with a fitting tribute to Bradley Lowery, who passed away following his fight with Neuroblastoma last month. A minute's applause and chants of "There's only one Bradley Lowery" rang around the stadium for the popular young fan prior to kick off.
The hosts started the match on the front foot, dominating the early encounters, coming close to scoring in the tenth minute when Andre Wisdom blocked new man Aiden McGeady's effort on goal.
Yet Derby opened the scoring with their first attack, a dancing run from Johnny Russell lead to a deflected cross finding Bradley Johnson on the back post, who slotted the ball home with ease. To the delight of the traveling supporters, a goal against the run of play is the sort of grit that fans will want to see as they aim for promotion.
Despite the scoreline, Sunderland's continued to dominate proceedings as Scott Carson made a sensational save to deny Sunderland an equaliser. The ball fumbled around the box before Lee Cattermole struck venomously, as the ball flew towards the top corner he was denied by the Derby Keeper. Sunderland continued to knock on the door for the duration of the first half and were finally rewarded for their efforts.
With five minutes to go in the first half, Sunderland were awarded a penalty as the ball fell down in the 18-yard box, Derby's Jacob Butterfield tripped and the ball bounced off his arm, handball, penalty. Lewis Grabban stepped up confidently to dispatch the penalty and equalise for the Black Cats.
In fact, the last time the sides met was a 0-0 Premier League clash in 2008 yet this encounter had much more entertainment to it, and the prospect of a goal fest lingered given both teams finding the net in the first half. As the second half began, McGeady continued to look lively, proving to be the catalyst for most of Sunderland's moves.
Sunderland were inches away from taking the lead as Cattermole capitalised from a poor backpass from goalscorer Johnson, which was followed by a sweet strike from Grabban which thudded off the woodwork. Sunderland were edging closer to taking the lead, and Derby were holding onto a precious point, having been second best for the duration of the match.
With the scores still level, Chris Martin was gifted a golden opportunity in the 73rd minute but skied the ball well over the bar after finding himself unbalanced and with only Steele to beat.
Derby continued to find themselves under the cosh, as Sunderland pushed for the winner but failed to convert as shown by their 19 attempts on goal.
Vaughan picked up the first booking of the night after a clumsy challenge on Keogh, which was both late and reckless, but overall the referee Oliver Langford had a good grasp on the game.
Despite both sides efforts, the deadlock was not broken as they settled for a point a piece on the opening day.