Sunderland 4 MK Dons 2
The Black Cats staged an impressive comeback to come from 2-0 down to beat the Dons 4-2 in a late frenzy at the Stadium of Light.
The Dons looked set to be pulling off another Cup upset thanks to great strikes from Patrick Bamford and Izale McLeod in the first and second half respectively. However, 12 minutes from time Sunderland turned the game on its head when Jozy Altidore pulled a goal back to reduce the score line to 2-1 to the visitors.
The striker’s goal appeared to be little more than a consolation for the Premier League side, but in fact it sparked an incredible fightback from Paolo Di Canio’s side as Connor Wickham came off the bench to score two goals in three minutes before Adam Johnson dealt a further blow in injury time to give the hosts 4-2.
Robinson made six changes to the side which drew with Bristol City at the weekend as Izale McLeod, Alan Smith, Samir Carruthers, Dele Alli, Ben Reeves and Ian McLoughlin were all brought into the starting XI.
Sunderland too made six changes to the side which drew at the weekend with Sunderland, but Paolo Di Canio would have fancied his side’s chances against the League 1 side.
It was, however, the Dons who got the better start in the match with some promising passing in the opening minutes. Sunderland though had only themselves to blame as they fell a goal down inside seven
A mis-placed pass from the home side found the grateful feet of Stephen Gleeson who had acres of space in front of him and played his centre-midfield partner Alli into the action on his right. The 17-year-old showed a clean pair of heels before sliding the ball into the path of Bamford.
The Chelsea loanee showed his Premier League pedigree as he cut inside on the right before firing a delicious shot past Vito Mannone.
The visitors could have had second only minutes later when Smith’s glancing header forced a good save from the Black Cats goalkeeper.
In an attempt to swiftly return to a level scoreline Sunderland began to commit bodies forward and a fine deep cross from Adam Johnson carved open a chance for the hosts, yet David Moberg-Karlsson was unable to connect at the far post.
Sunderland appeared to be lacking a bite in front of goal as Jozy Altidore fired a free-kick from 25-yards straight into McLoughlin’s arms. The Dons should have made Sunderland pay for their missed chances when McLeod was played through by Smith in an excellent one-touch move for a one-on-one with Mannone, the striker’s low shot had the goalie beaten but dragged wide of the post.
The hosts upped their pressure but remained frustrated in front of goal with Moberg-Karlsson turning a shot wide before Ondrej Celustka sent a free header flying past the wrong side of the post.
Moments before the break Di Canio’s side had the best chance of the first half to level up the scoreline when Altidore slipped through the left of the Dons’ box only to see his curling strike rattle the upright.
The rebound fell straight to Moberg-Karlsson who was 12-yards out but the winger scuffed his initial effort and his second attempt fell kindly into McLoughlin’s arms.
From the re-start the Dons remained positive in their approach as Bamford and Gleeson linked up on the edge of the box before the latter curled a fine strike inches over the bar.
Just five minutes into the second half Di Canio made his first substitution of the match as he brought on Connor Wickham in the hope of adding a deadly touch up front which had been somewhat lacking.
Instead though, it was the Dons who were able to show their class in front of goal when Carruthers played a defence-splitting ball through to McLeod who was presented another one-on-one opportunity with
This time though the Dons striker opted for a smart dinked shot over the goalie, as he raced off the line, which nestled into the net and sparked wild celebrations from the Club’s all-time leading goal scorer.
The Dons’ second of the night appeared to kick Sunderland into action as they burst down the opposite end of the pitch where Moberg-Karlsson was denied by a superb save from McLoughlin at his right post. Wickham was then left with his head in his hands as he blazed a shot over from inside the six-yard box.
With the Stadium of Light crowd almost stunned to silence the Sunderland team desperately tried to regain some momentum in the match. Johnson tried to single-handily reduce the deficit as he broke down the wing and went all the way only to see his low shot blocked by the combination of Antony Kay and McLoughlin.
The Black Cats did, however, finally break through the Dons’ resolute defence when Wickham played a smart chipped ball over the top for Altidore to latch on to. The big striker dragged McLoughlin off his goal line and fired the ball into the bottom corner to breathe life into their Cup campaign 12 minutes from time.
The twist didn’t stop there as the Dons were caught in diseray at the back as Johnson’s hard work into the box allowed Wickham to find space the former Ipswich striker fired in the equaliser at the near post.
With the wind in their sails it took Sunderland three minutes to turn the game on its head when Wickham again proved to be the danger man as he unleashed a strike from 20-yards which picked up a wicked deflection on Ben Reeves and left McLoughlin rooted to the spot.
To cap off a nightmare ten minutes for the Dons Johnson showed a late burst of energy to skip through two challenges and turn in Sunderland’s fourth of the night at the near post.
It was huge blow for the Dons which gave the scoreline an unfair slant but the Dons will now have to pick themselves up for the return of Sky Bet League 1 this weekend.
Sunderland: Mannone, Cabral (Larsson 60), Johnson, Celustka, Colback, Vaughan, O'Shea (c), Altidore, Moberg-Karlsson (Mavrias 65), Ji (Wickham 60), Roberge.
Subs not used: Westwood (GK), Wickham, Ba, Cuellar.
Goal: Altidore 78, Wickham 86, 89, Johnson 90+
MK Dons: McLoughlin; Baldock, Williams, Kay, Reeves; Alli, Gleeson (c); Bamford (Otsemobor 66), Smith, Carruthers (Banton 66); McLeod (Chadwick 82).
Subs not used: Burns (GK), Hodson, Galloway, Rasulo.
Goals: Bamford 7, McLeod 55
Booked: Bamford, Baldock
Referee: D Cootes
Attendance: 18,992 (223 away)