Sunderland 1-1 Coventry: Alex Neil’s side are denied victory on their return to the Championship as Viktor Gyokeres’ late strike cancels out Jack Clarke’s opener
- Sunderland were held to a draw by Coventry on their return to the Championship
- Jack Clarke gave the home side the lead with a header after 12 minutes
- Coventry earned a point through Viktor Gyokeres’ late powerful strike
The last time Sunderland were in the Championship the best thing they produced was a Netflix documentary. It was never the intention for the show to jump genres from sport to tragicomedy, but their relegation made for captivating viewing.
Current boss Alex Neil, you feel, would sooner kick a camera than kiss one. This, then, was more to his liking – a gritty draw to open their season against a decent Coventry side.
Sunderland were held to a draw at the Stadium of Light in their first Championship game back
Jack Clarke gave the home side an early lead with a header from Lynden Gooch’s cross
Yes, he may well bemoan the late concession which denied the Black Cats a winning return to the second tier after four years in the division below, but he cannot argue the result was not fair.
Not that it felt like Sunderland were headed for anything other than three points during a typically noisy opening at the Stadium of Light.
It made sense for the club to prioritise the permanent re-signing of loanee Jack Clarke from Spurs this summer. The winger put the whizz in wizard towards the end of last season as his dribbles helped carry the team to Wembley play-off glory. Turns out he can use his head, too.
Alex Pritchard (left) and Ben Sheaf (right) battle for the game during Sunday’s match
Viktor Gyokeres scored with a thumping strike late on to earn Coventry a deserved point
Clarke was not favourite to win the ball when Lynden Gooch hung a cross towards the far post on 12 minutes. There were two sky blue jerseys in attendance, but they had their heads in the clouds. Clarke was wise to the air heads and used his own to nod in from a few yards out.
With opening-day adrenalin fuelled further still by the early goal and the frenzied sound of 40,851 supporters – the Championship’s biggest attendance – Sunderland set after a second. Clarke nearly had it when his shot was smothered by Simon Moore on 23 minutes.
But as the buzz left the legs of those on the field and morphed into a hum of unease in the stands, Sunderland’s lead looked ever more fragile.
Sunderland boss Alex Neil will be disappointed after his team dropped two points late on
Coventry left back Jonathan Pranzo, the 21-year-old Nottingham Forest loanee, rattled the crossbar from fully 40 yards before the break and, not long after it, Matty Godden steered the wrong side of the post with only home goalkeeper Anthony Patterson to beat.
Sunderland put their backs to the wall in the closing stages but must have felt as if they’d been hit by a brick when Coventry’s Viktor Gyokeres salvaged a point six minutes from time. It was a tremendous goal. The Swede collected the ball 25 yards out, beat two men and slammed into the bottom corner.
It was deserved reward for Mark Robins’ side, who harbour play-off ambitions this season. That may well be beyond newly-promoted Sunderland. But a routine season of mid-table comfort and one free of drama would perhaps suit Neil, especially if it keeps the Netflix cameras away.