Sunderland crashed out of the League Cup on penalties as Marc McNulty and Will Grigg’s missed penalties sealed Sunderland’s fate.
Oxford opened the scoring in the first half as Rob Hall’s effort got the hosts ahead. McNulty scored a deserved equaliser in the second half, but after missing some great chances Sunderland had to settle for penalties. Oxford edged the shootout as they went through to the quarter finals.
Phil Parkinson made a few changes to the side which was beaten by Shrewsbury on Saturday with Jon McLaughlin, Conor McLaughlin, Tom Flanagan, Grant Leadbitter and Marc McNulty all back in the line-up.
From the outset, this game may not have been the most important, but Sunderland the message pre-match will have been to get that winning feeling back and it’s not often Sunderland could be in a League Cup quarter-final.
Sunderland started the game with a great tempo and could have been leading within the first minute - McNulty had an early chance but dragged it wide of past Simon Eastwood in the Oxford goal.
There were serious questions of the referee from the Sunderland players who thought Joel Lynch was fouled by Eastwood and the keeper was a tad reckless in how he came out of his goal.
With 20 minutes played there wasn’t a lot to separate the two sides with Sunderland just about edging the possession.
Sunderland should have scored as McNulty was set through on goal on the right-hand side, but his effort crashed off the post. 20 seconds later Oxford made the breakthrough, they had the numbers up the field and Tariqe Fosu played it back to Rob Hall who curled it perfectly into the far corner past McLaughlin – it was terrible defending with several players ball watching.
With only five minutes to play Sunderland were looking a little better going forward but that final ball wasn’t quite there. A worrying stat going into the break was that the lads hadn’t scored away from home in over 315 minutes of football – something that would have to change if Parkinson’s men were to go into the hat for the next round.
Max Power should have ended that streak as the lads knocked it about brilliantly – Leadbitter chipped it over the top to McNulty who picked out Power six yards out and with the goal at his mercy he missed the target – a sensational miss for all the wrong reasons.
Five minutes into the second half and the hosts had started much the better side with Fosu and Hall the danger men. Every time Oxford got going, they looked threatening and the Sunderland backline were struggling to cope.
Joel Lynch picked up a knock very early on in the half and Will Grigg replaced the former QPR man as Parkinson had moved his team from three at the back to four with McNulty and Grigg up top.
The home side came so close to doubling their lead as Henry laid the ball off to Fosu who jinked inside and was denied by McLaughlin who saved well to his left.
Sunderland were starting to crank up the pressure and almost scored in bizarre circumstances, George Dobson’s ball in was a teasing one and caught Eastwood out who parried it behind onto his bar.
With fifteen minutes to play Sunderland missed another guilt-edged chance, Dobson played a fine ball over the top to McNulty who seemed to be through on goal, but his first touch let him down as it trickled through to Eastwood.
The goal had been coming and McNulty made amends from his mistake moments earlier – a Leadbitter corner was met by McLaughlin who acrobatically flicked it on to McNulty from three yards and couldn’t miss – a deserved equaliser.
Somehow Sunderland didn’t get a second as low cross was pulled back by McLaughlin who had Grigg and McNulty waiting, it bypassed Grigg and dropped to the Reading loanee who looked destined to score, but his effort was deflected wide.
Parkinson was outraged on the side-line as Luke O’Nien was brought down inside the box, but the referee was not interested – a truly shocking decision with only three minutes remaining.
The game ended with the scores level and with no extra time penalties were to decide the fate of the two League One sides.
Oxford went first in the shootout with James Henry who got the hosts in front, but Power emphatically pulled Sunderland level. Substitute Ford scored to make it 2-1 and O’Nien calmly made it all square after four penalties. Fosu brilliantly tucked his away penalty to make it 3-2, but Grigg flashed his effort over the bar to make it advantage Oxford. The hosts made it 4-2 meaning McNulty had to score his penalty but couldn't convert as Oxford progressed.
Full Time: Oxford 1-1 Sunderland (penalties: 4-2)
ALS Man of the Match: Marc McNulty