Sunderland 2-1 Luton: Black Cats take slender lead into second leg after Amad Diallo stunner
Sunderland 2-1 Luton: Black Cats take slender lead into second leg after Amad Diallo stunner and Trai Hume header cancel out Elijah Adebayo’s opener to topple the Hatters
- Adebayo had scored after Alfie Doughty hit the post in a scrappy period of play
- Diallo curled in a long-distance effort against the run of play to change the game
- Hume’s header came as the hosts pushed on with the tie currently finely poised
Perhaps Erik ten Hag was watching as he unwound following Manchester United’s win over Wolves. If not, he’ll find out soon enough.
Amad Diallo just can’t stop producing moments of wonder during a loan spell that could yet see Sunderland return to the Premier League.
The 20-year-old winger scored a final afternoon stunner as Sunderland won at Preston to sneak into the Championship play-offs.
And his sumptuous curling shot here sparked the turnaround against Luton that moved the Wembley arch into view as the Black Cats chase back-to-back promotions.
Trailing to Elijah Adebayo’s early strike and second-best to a streetwise Hatters side, Diallo’s magic tipped the balance and Trai Hume’s second-half header gave Sunderland a lead to take to Kenilworth Road on Tuesday.
Amad Diallo scored an impressive equaliser for Sunderland just before half time in the game
It was the 14th goal of Diallo’s loan, though whether he can force his way into Ten Hag’s plans for United next season remains to be seen.
After all, his United team do struggle to score goals but they’re well-stocked for players with Diallo’s skillset.
Tony Mowbray’s Sunderland team selection looked adventurous but this wasn’t necessarily through choice. Injuries left their defensive line looking makeshift.
Patrick Roberts was granted licence to push forward at every opportunity and it was his early curling shot that forced a parry from Ethan Horvath, the ball just evading the incoming Joe Gelhardt.
While Sunderland’s youthful side were committed to enterprising football, there was always a risk they’d be bullied by the physically-imposing Luton forward line.
So it proved for the Hatters’ 11th-minute opener when Carlton Morris headed Jordan Clark’s deep corner back into a congested six-yard area.
Sunderland were unable to clear their lines, Gabe Osho kept the move alive and Alfie Doughty saw his shot blocked by keeper Anthony Patterson.
Adebayo was the fastest to react, smashing the ball into the roof of the net to briefly silence a raucous Stadium of Light atmosphere.
Luton were on top, winning most of the 50-50 battles and there were some frustrated Sunderland tackles. Adebayo might have scored his second but for Hume’s important block.
But Sunderland were game and their direct running caused Luton issues. When Roberts was tripped by Pelly Mpanzu just outside the Hatters’ box six minutes before half-time, it spelt trouble.
Alex Pritchard simply nudged the free-kick a few yards to his left and Diallo unleashed an unstoppable curling shot with both the elevation and bend to leave Horvath with no chance.
The Ivorian has made spectacular goals such as this a speciality during what has been a hugely productive season here. He’d struggled to get into the contest prior to that, but all was forgiven.
Buoyed by that moment, Sunderland went straight on the attack after the break with Gelhardt sending Pritchard’s cross just wide.
Roberts was a constant menace and he ghosted past four Luton defenders before seeing a shot deflected wide.
From the corner, Diallo kept the move alive, feeding the ball to Jack Clarke, who crossed. In the centre, Hume timed his dart to perfection to get ahead of Osho and plant a header into the bottom corner to put Sunderland in front.
Diallo tried his luck from similar range to his goal but this time it sailed over the crossbar, before Dan Neil’s attempt dropped just wide.
There was a moment of concern when marvelous Nakamba careered into Diallo and left the youngster sprawled on the turf but the crowd’s reception when he climbed back to his feet told you everything about how appreciated he is here.
It isn’t difficult to understand why.