Sunderland secured a second Premier League scalp in the League Cup, progressing past Sheffield United thanks to a 1-0 victory at Bramall Lane.
Max Power’s ninth minute rocket was the difference between the two sides, with Sunderland adding Sheffield United’s scalp to that of Burnley.
The now-Premier League outfit had the better of Sunderland when they crossed paths twice in 2017. However, that wasn’t the case this evening, as Jack Ross’ side moved into the fourth-round.
As to be expected, both sides made a sea of changes from their respective weekend outings – Chris Wilder retaining only Callum Robinson from the win at Everton, whilst eight fresh Sunderland faces were introduced.
And, it was one of those eight that sent the Sunderland fans ballistic inside the first 10 minutes in the form of Power.
The Blades conceded a needless corner from a Lee Burge clearance, with Chris Maguire’s delivery to the edge of the area worked the way of Power, who rifled a right-footed finish into the top corner of Simon Moore’s goal.
Wilder’s side tried to battle back, with Callum Robinson – who had forced a decent save out of Burge before the goal – their biggest threat.
However, it was the League One side having the better of things in South Yorkshire.
Elliot Embleton forced a stop out of Moore and Maguire’s delivery from set-pieces was causing problems throughout the first-half.
Luke Freeman and Ravel Morrison – playing as Wilder’s advanced midfielders – struggled to find space between Sunderland’s two banks of four, with Power and Dylan McGeouch limiting their involvement and making life tough for Mo Besic.
The flow of the game was very much in Sunderland’s favour heading into half-time, with Ross cutting a relaxed figure next to Wilder in the dugouts.
Lys Mousset stung the palms of Ross’ goalkeeper on the stroke of half-time, but the Scot will have been delighted with how efficient his side were for the opening 45 minutes on Premier League soil.
Ross will have expected a reaction after the break, with Wilder sending his side out with much more urgency.
Nevertheless, it was Luke O’Nien with the best chance of the opening exchanges in the second-half, with the advanced midfielder firing narrowly wide of Moore’s near post.
Maguire would then waste a good advantage, as Wilder turned to his bench. Oli McBurnie was on, alongside the trusted Leon Clarke.
Playing on the front-foot, Sheffield United searched for an equaliser, but Ross’ side held firm as the game ticked past the hour and offered plenty on the break, encouraging a strong midweek following from the North-East.
John Fleck was introduced as Wilder looked to give Freeman and Ravel more attacking licence, but home frustrations were growing as their side coughed up possession time after time and struggled to break a resilient Sunderland.
Laurens De Bock and Joel Lynch looked assured on debut, with the former protected well by Denver Hume – who was introduced for Embleton at the break.
Richard Stearman sliced a shot wide as the game ticked into its final 10 minutes, with Clarke and Freeman also wasting good positions.
The home fans urged Wilder’s side on, with Ben Osborn sending a dipping volley into the arms of Burge and Clarke firing across goal as they searched for an equaliser.
That goal never came, with Sunderland’s loud following helping Ross’ side over the line in South Yorkshire.
Premier League football might seem a million miles away at times for those fans, but nights like this and Burnley keep them loyal, and strikes like Power’s help them believe.
FULL-TIME: Sheffield United 0-1 Sunderland.