Ten-man Sunderland held on for a vital three points against a Bradford side, who were also reduced to ten, in a thrilling second half as Jack Baldwin scored the winning goal. Sunderland deservedly took the lead with Josh Maja’s ninth goal of the season. Anthony O’Connor equalized seven minutes into the second half, but Sunderland were only behind for two minutes, as Jack Baldwin scored his first ever Sunderland goal.
The drama was far from over, Max Power was sent off for an apparent elbow/kicking out. The foul resulted in a penalty which was saved by Jon McLaughlin. Deep into injury time, Bradford were also reduced to ten as Sean Scannell received his marching orders.
Sunderland travelled down to Yorkshire on the back of only one win in the last six, as Jack Ross looked to get his side back in promotion form.
Coming off the back of a frustrating but promising draw to Peterborough, Sunderland made two changes. Reece James came in for the suspended Bryan Oviedo and Lee Cattermole was straight back into the team for Dylan McGeouch.
Max Power continued to wear the armband in place of George Honeyman, however, the latter did make the bench after recovering from a concussion.
Josh Maja lead the line again with the young striker only one away from double figures. Ross will no doubt have hoped for a better referee, after using his diplomatic words describing an ‘indifferent’ showing from the officials last time out.
Only a few minutes into the game Sunderland could have taken the lead. After a free-kick was cleared, Chris Maguire got down the left-hand side to cross to Maja, who was free in the six-yard box. The ball, however, came towards him at an awkward angle and his attempted volley hit the turf and bounced over the bar.
Despite a positive start for the hosts, Sunderland took the lead in stunning fashion. Aiden McGeady danced his way past two Bradford defenders and managed to get a cross in. The ball was cleared to Lee Cattermole who appeared to volley home, but Josh Maja claimed the goal. The striker got a threw is chest in front of the shot which beat Richard O’Donnell. It was Maja’s tenth strike of the season and perhaps his luckiest.
Sunderland were deservedly in front; Ross’ men had controlled most of the opening 20 minutes and were pushing for a second against the struggling Bantams.
Bradford came close through Jack Payne, as the number ten got a shot away from 20 yards which whistled past the post. A reminder that the game was still up for grabs and with Sunderland’s suspect defence, the lads will have no doubt been looking for a second to ease the pressure.
One area where Sunderland have been poor all season is defending set pieces. Bradford almost took advantage with ten minutes of the half remaining. After the initial corner was cleared, Bradford whipped it back in and the flick on fell to George Miller six yards out, he tried an audacious bicycle kick which he got all wrong as it flew well over the bar.
Going into the break Sunderland were beating Bradford in all the statistics, especially in possession as the lads had 69% of the ball, but more significantly were up on the most important stat- goals!
Sunderland had started the half the brighter, with McGeady in full flight. The Irishman tried to catch out O’Donnell at his near post, but the keeper was alert to keep the score line at 0-1.
Bradford equalised soon after with a scrappy goal. From a throw in the ball was whipped into the box and it found Anthony O’Connor after Ryan McGowan flicked it on. O’Connor was in acres of space six yards out and on the half-volley hammered it home. Yet again, Sunderland had failed to keep a clean sheet.
Only two minutes later Sunderland were back in front! This time scoring from a set piece of their own. Maguire’s ball in caused a little scramble and fell to Jack Baldwin off balance who brilliantly tucked it away, for his first ever Sunderland goal. It was the perfect response from the lads who wasted no time in getting back in front.
The game had sprung into life, with two goals in as many minutes both sides were playing with much more pace. Sunderland could have added a third through Max Power. McGeady tried to beat around three Bradford players and played it back to Power, whose deflected shot just went past the post.
Power came even closer to giving Sunderland a two-goal advantage. Again, linking up with McGeady, the Irish international played it into the box and found Power, who struck towards goal. His shot was perhaps too central but never the less it was a fine save from the Bantams stopper.
Out of nothing Sunderland shot themselves in the foot. Off the ball Power appeared to lash out at a Bradford player and was shown a straight red. To make things worse he fouled him in the box, giving the Bantams the chance to score from the spot.
Payne stepped up and took it, but Jon McLaughlin dived to his right and saved his second penalty of the season. It looked as if the ball was coming straight back to Payne but a vital interception from Tom Flanagan denied the number ten. He threw himself in front of the ball, and brilliantly denied Payne from making amends.
It was another needless sending off from a Sunderland player, who put his side in massive trouble. In response to the sending off Ross made three substitutes with Alim Ozturk, Honeyman and McGeouch who all were brought on to sure up the team.
Sunderland with Maguire playing up top by himself struggled to keep a hold of the ball, the Scot’s energy and tenacity was infectious as he tried to keep Sunderland in the lead.
Payne was a constant threat to the Sunderland defence and his effort from 25 yards skimmed past McLaughlin’s post. The Bantams were throwing every player in the box including the goalkeeper for corners. It was very much attack vs defence.
Deep into injury time Bradford were also reduced to ten men. After some brilliant effort by Honeyman who held on to the ball high up the pitch, he was then met with a push from Sean Scannell. The referee immediately pulled out the red card and sent him back to the dressing room for an early bath.
Final Score: Sunderland 2 Bradford 1
ALS Man of the Match: Lee Cattermole