12 March 2023

Abdoullah Ba’s goal hands Sunderland crucial win over play-off rivals Norwich

12 March 2023

Sunderland boosted their Championship play-off hopes with a 1-0 win over fellow top-six hopefuls Norwich.

Tony Mowbray’s side bounced back from a painful 5-1 home defeat to Stoke as Abdoullah Ba’s well taken 15th-minute goal settled an entertaining encounter at Carrow Road, leaving the Black Cats five points off the play-off spots.

Norwich, who would have gone back into the top six with a win, dominated the game for long spells, especially in the second half, but struggled to create clear-cut openings, with some excellent defending keeping them largely at arm’s length.

The Canaries had two good chances to grab an early lead, with goalkeeper Anthony Patterson doing well to thwart Max Aarons after the right-back had stolen in at the back post and then grabbing a low drive through a crowded box from Marcelino Nunez.

But the visitors, who had also seen plenty of the ball, were the ones to break the deadlock.

Some poor defending allowed Joe Gelhardt to slide in a pass to Ba and the midfielder burst forward and, from just outside the area, beat Angus Gunn with a well struck shot into the bottom corner.

Sunderland should have gone two up a couple of minutes later when Gelhardt broke the offside trap and ran through, but with defenders on his heels he could only shoot straight at Gunn, who made a smart reaction stop.

Norwich regained their composure as the half wore on but the best effort they could manage was a deflected long-range effort from Kenny McLean, which was comfortably saved by Patterson.

The hosts started the second half looking as though they meant business and Sunderland were grateful for a brave block when Gabriel Sara fired a powerful drive goalwards after 54 minutes.

Gunn then fisted away a 20-yard snap shot from Jack Clarke as the Black Cats continued to threaten but it was Norwich who were now dictating proceedings, with Patterson doing well to grab Teemu Pukki’s crisply struck volley.

David Wagner’s side laid siege to the Sunderland goal in the latter stages but could find no way through a well drilled defence.

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