Marc Muniesa proved the unlikely hero as Stoke came from behind to record a 2-1 victory at Sunderland to book a place in the Capital One Cup fourth-round draw.Sunderland Vs Stoke City highlights.
The Black Cats had got off to a flying start when Jozy Altidore, who had scored only twice in his previous 44 appearances for the club, produced a neat turn and powerful finish to give his side a 16th-minute lead.
But the visitors were back on level terms within quarter of an hour when Marc Muniesa took full advantage of the latest in a series of enterprising runs by Oussama Assaidi to level with his first goal for the club.Sunderland Vs Stoke City 1-2 match report 2014
Mark Hughes’ men might have found themselves reduced to 10 within minutes when midfielder Steven Nzonzi reacted furiously to a challenge by Jack Rodwell and literally took matters into his own hands.
The Frenchman grabbed his opposite number by the throat prompting an ugly melee, although referee Mike Dean saw fit only to caution both men after restoring order.
With the two sides locked together in front of a crowd of 17,353, Will Buckley seemed certain to restore the home side’s lead with a 62nd-minute volley, which was acrobatically turned away by City keeper Jack Butland.
Buckley might have won it seconds later after being played in by Adam Johnson, but Butland was equal to the task once again.
However, the dangerous Assaidi forced a 71st-minute save from keeper Costel Pantilimon and from the resulting corner, Muniesa secured Stoke’s passage.
The full-back barged his way past Johnson after the set-piece was cleared and with the men in red and white appealing in vain for a foul, he thumped a rising shot into the roof of the net.
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet had indicated he would not make wholesale changes, while hinting he would select men who needed a game, but when the teamsheet arrived, it included the names of summer signings Pantilimon, Billy Jones, Sebastian Coates, Jordi Gomez and Buckley among seven new faces.
But the Black Cats made a positive start with Altidore only just failing to get to Jones’ driven first-minute cross and Rodwell firing inches over the top after latching on to Buckley’s cross.
However, if Sunderland were playing the more cohesive football, it was Stoke – themselves featuring six changes from the 2-2 Barclays Premier League draw at QPR – who were more accurate with Assaidi forcing a second-minute save from Pantilimon and Nzonzi calling upon the Romanian once again nine minutes later.
But it was the home side which took the lead with 16 minutes gone when Jones helped Johnson’s cross into the path of Altidore, who turned away from Robert Huth before drilling a low shot past the wrong-footed Butland.
As the game settled down, Stoke began to threaten on the break with Assaidi putting full-back Santiago Vergini under pressure, and when the equaliser arrived, it did so down his flank 14 minutes before the break.
Assaidi tricked his way past the Argentinian and fed supporting full-back Muniesa, who touched the ball outside John O’Shea before drilling it home off Pantilimon.
Butland did well to palm away Johnson’s curling free-kick three minutes later, but Assaidi really should have put the visitors ahead when he ran on to former Black Cat Phil Bardsley’s cross, only to slice his effort wide.
Nzonzi was fortunate not to see red after his scuffle with Rodwell, and the Potters midfielder might have taken full advantage with a strike which flew just wide on the stroke of half-time as the visitors finished strongly.
Neither side was able to gain any measure of control as the second half started in untidy fashion, and then descended into a drab affair fought out largely in the middle third.
That very nearly changed with 62 minutes gone when Rodwell picked out Gomez wide on the left and his cross was met by Buckley, whose guided volley looked to be going in until Butland threw out a hand to turn it away.
Jones was unable to make the most of a fine 67th-minute ball by Santiago Vergini and Buckley shot straight at Butland after being played in by Johnson seconds later, and they were made to pay with 18 minutes remaining.
Stoke were awarded a corner after Pantilimon tipped another Assaidi effort around the post and when the initial ball in was cleared, Muniesa muscled his way past Johnson before beating the keeper emphatically to snatch victory with substitute Victor Moses passing up an injury-time opportunity to extend their lead.Follow @Football7x24