Six games later and Sunderland are heading to Wembley to face Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final. Chief football writer Paul Fraser looks back on the Black Cats' route to the final, which started one night in August when Paolo Di Canio hoped a corner had been turned
Sunderland 4 MK Dons 2
Connor Wickham celebrates after forcing home his second goal, in as many minutes, to make it 3-2 in the Capital One cup, second round tie between Sunderland and MK Dons
FOR 78 minutes it seemed like Sunderland's place in the Capital One Cup could be lost at the first stage. Paolo Di Canio looked stunned and full of fury in his technical area after seeing MK Dons, of League One, cruise in to a two-goal lead.
Patrick Bamford's seventh minute opener was followed by Izale McLeod's strike nine minutes after the restart. It seemed the visitors had made the most of a Sunderland display lacking character and desire for the vast majority of the 90 minutes.
A rare goal from Jozy Altidore, his first for the club, finally got things rolling for the Black Cats with 12 minutes remaining of the tie.
Then Connor Wickham, introduced as a second half substitute for Ji Dong-Won, struck two in two minutes to edge Sunderland ahead before Adam Johnson made progress certain with a fine solo effort in stoppage-time.
Di Canio said: “I was very tough on my players for what they showed me before half-time and I'm still very angry for what they showed me for 75 minutes.
“But I'm also very happy with what they produced in the final 15 because that was special. This could be a very important result for the belief and the bond between the players.”
SUNDERLAND: Mannone; Celustka, O'Shea, Roberge, Colback; Moberg-Karlsson (Mavrias 65), Cabral (Larsson 61), Vaughan, A Johnson; Altidore, Ji (Wickham 49). Subs (not used): Ba, Cuellar, Westwood (gk), Fletcher.
MK DONS: McLoughlin; A Kay, Reeves, Williams, Baldock; P Bamford (Otsemobor 67), Alli, Carruthers (Banton 66), Gleeson, Smith, McLeod (Chadwick 82). Subs (not used): Galloway, Rasulo, Burns, Hodson.
September 24, 2013
Sunderland 2 Peterborough United 0
Sunderland's Lee Catermole challenges Peterborough United's Tommy Rowe
JUST two days after a dressing room revolt led to the sacking of Paolo Di Canio, Lee Cattermole led by example in the middle of midfield to bring some cheer back to the Stadium of Light.
A victory over Peterborough United might not have seemed the biggest win in the world, but caretaker boss Kevin Ball knew how important it was to avoid defeat during difficult times on Wearside.
It was Cattermole's brilliant pass which created Emanuele Giaccherini's opening goal just after the half hour mark and then Sunderland added a second 16 minutes from time through Valentin Roberge's well-placed header.
Having been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons following a disastrous start to the Premier League season and Di Canio's reign, Ball was relieved to have avoided a cup shock against League One opposition.
Ball, outlining his own hopes to succeed Di Canio, said: “They turned in a professional performance, like Lee Cattermole, who put in an excellent performance, along with a number of others. They were fine and they all worked hard.”
SUNDERLAND: Westwood; Gardner, Cuellar, O'Shea (Roberge 61), Colback; Larsson, Cattermole; Johnson, Ki, Giaccherini (Borini 81); Altidore (Wickham 85). Subs (not used): Mannone (gk), Cabral, Mavrias, Ba.
PETERBOROUGH: Olejnik; Ntlhe, Barnett, Zakuani, Bostwick; Alcock, Rowe (McCann 64), Swanson, Payne (Mendez-Laing 76); Tomlin (Newell 11), Assombalonga.
Subs (not used): Gordon, Ferdinand, Brisley, Day.
November 6, 2013
Sunderland 2 Southampton 1
Seb Larsson celebrates after scoring Sunderland's second goal
IN front of a crowd of just 15, 966 supporters, Sunderland booked a place in the League Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 13 years.
And Phil Bardsley, the forgotten man most fans hated for mocking his team's opening day defeat to Fulham, took the first steps towards reviving his career in the North-East.
It was the whole-hearted right-back's presence in the six-yard area which bundled the first goal over the line just before the hour when Kelvin Davis could only turn Jozy Altidore's header in to his path.
Altidore also laid on the second for Seb Larsson four minutes before the end, just when Southampton, who did pull one back late on through Maya Yoshida, had looked dangerous and capable of levelling.
The sight of Wes Brown coming through his first 90 minutes on his first start since January 2012 also provided hope for the months ahead.
Gus Poyet, in charge of his first cup game as Sunderland head coach, said: “I am very happy for Phil because this will give him plenty of confidence. As soon as I arrived here I could see how important he could be for us.
“There are plenty things to be pleased about and the quarter-finals are something this club hasn't achieved for many, many years. Chelsea will be special at home.”
SUNDERLAND: Mannone; Celustka (Larsson 70), Brown, O'Shea, Bardsley; Ki; Johnson, Gardner, Colback, Giaccherini (Fletcher, 89); Altidore. Subs (not used): Mavrias, Dixon (gk), Cabral, Borini, Cuellar.
SOUTHAMPTON: Davis; Chambers, Hooiveld, Yoshida, Fox; Reed, S Davis (Lallana 70), Cork, Lee (Ward-Prowse 57); Rodriguez, Ramirez (Gallagher 79). Subs (not used): Clyne, Isgrove, Stephens, Gazzaniga (gk).
December 17, 2013
Sunderland 2 Chelsea 1
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho (right) speaks with assistant first team coach Steve Holland at the Stadium of Light
JOSE Mourinho bemoaned Chelsea's wasteful finishing after watching Sunderland memorably and dramatically clinch a semi-final spot.
Samuel Eto'o, Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba all missed great chances even though the Blues had looked to have done just enough to get through when Frank Lampard bundled over the line following Cesar Azpilicueta's cross.
But Chelsea's failure to kill the game off led to former Stamford Bridge youngster Fabio Borini firing in from a tight angle two minutes from time after emerging from the bench.
And then, with penalties looming, Borini teed up Ki Sung-Yueng, who beat two defenders before powering in the winner to spark wild celebrations.
It was the sort of comeback which suggested Sunderland were making progress under Gus Poyet.
He said: “I'm pleased for the players and absolutely delighted for the fans. This has been a hard season for the fans so to find yourself in a semi-final is something to enjoy.”
SUNDERLAND: Mannone; Celustka, Brown, O'Shea, Dossena; Cattermole; Johnson (Borini 74) Larsson, Gardner (Ki 63), Giaccherini (Bardsley 89); Altidore. Subs (not used): Mavrias, Cabral, Dixon (gk), Roberge.
CHELSEA: Schwarzer; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Cole (Essien 70); Lampard, Mikel, Willian; De Bruyne, Schurrle (E Hazard 83); Eto'o (Ba 74). Subs (not used): Terry, Torres, Oscar, Blackman (gk).
SEMI-FINAL FIRST LEG
January 7, 2014
Sunderland 2 Manchester United 1
Fabio Borini scores from the penalty spot at the Stadium of light
“IT is not a bad result but of course it is going to be very difficult at Old Trafford.” Those were the words uttered by a slightly satisfied Gus Poyet after watching Sunderland gain the upperhand in the semi-final.
On reflection he was right, but there can be no disguising how crucial it was for Sunderland to end the first leg with a one-goal lead, even if Manchester United did score an away goal.
Ryan Giggs was responsible for giving Sunderland the advantage right on the stroke of half-time when his attempt to prevent Phil Bardsley from scoring ended with him turning in to his own net.
While the Premier League champions' reward for a bright start to the second half was an equaliser from Nemanja Vidic's header, Fabio Borini delivered once more in the 64th minute.
Adam Johnson, the liveliest he had been in the opening few months of the season, won a penalty and Borini stroked in the winner in front of an ecstatic crowd, despite 18,000 empty seats.
Borini said: “We will not be going there to lose, we will be going there to win. We have to play our way to Wembley.”
SUNDERLAND: Mannone; Bardsley, Brown, O'Shea, Alonso; Cattermole; Larsson, Ki, Giaccherini (Johnson 56), Borini; Fletcher (Altidore 72). Subs (not used): Dixon (gk), Gardner, Ji, Celustka, Colback.
MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea; Rafael, Vidic, Evans (Smalling 61), P Evra; Carrick, Giggs; Januzaj, Cleverley, Valencia (Hernandez 87); D Welbeck. Subs (not used): Buttner, Lindegaard (gk), Kagawa, Zaha.
SEMI-FINAL SECOND LEG
January 22, 2014
Manchester United 2 Sunderland 1 (Sunderland win 2-1 on penalties)
Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone celebrates with Craig Gardner after Manchester United's Rafael Da Silva's (right) missed penalty
GUS POYET claimed to have never seen an ending like it before – but that did not harm the celebrations.
Sunderland secured a first Wembley final since 1992 in the sort of manner which will be forever be remembered on Wearside.
Despite impressing throughout at Old Trafford, Sunderland struggled to test David De Gea. When they eventually did, everyone now knows what happened.
Jonny Evans' opening goal in the 37th minute had pulled Manchester United level and, courtesy of Vidic's first leg header, it was David Moyes' men primed for a final spot when the away goal rule came in to play in extra-time.
But in the last minute, Phil Bardsley's speculative shot on goal was spilled over his own line by De Gea. Yet United's deflated players picked themselves up off the pitch, immediately went on the attack and Javier Hernandez made it 3-3 on aggregate by turning in Adnan Januzaj's cross.
With no time remaining, penalties ensued; the worst sequence of penalties too. Only Darren Fletcher scored for the Premier League champions, while Marcos Alonso and Ki Sung Yueng's spot-kicks had Sunderland on the verge of a trip to Wembley.
Brazilian full-back Rafael stepped up and Vito Mannone denied him. Sunderland could start planning for March 2, 2014, and a weekend in London.
“I was so proud,” said Poyet. “They played, believing, pushing the ball around, taking risks. I think it was a great night for a group of players and fans who have had a really difficult season.”
MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea; Buttner (Evra 85), Evans, Smalling, Rafael; Fletcher, Januzaj, Carrick (Jones 95); Welbeck, Kagawa (Valencia 61); Hernandez. Subs (not used): Giggs, Young, Cleverley, Lindegaard (gk).
SUNDERLAND: Mannone; Bardsley, Brown, O'Shea, Alonso; Cattermole (Gardner 82); Johnson, Colback, Ki, Borini (Altidore 86), Fletcher. Subs (not used): Celustka, Larsson, Ustari (gk), Vergini, Giaccherini.