Jobe Bellingham scored a brace to help Sunderland come from behind and secure their first points of the Championship campaign with a 2-1 win over Rotherham.
Hakeem Odoffin had given Rotherham a shock lead 20 minutes into the contest but Bellingham’s close-range header drew his side level almost immediately, and his smart finish early in the second half secured three deserved points for Tony Mowbray’s side.
The 17-year-old came close to scoring a remarkable hat-trick, but instead had to settle for a match-winning brace and the adulation of 40,000 supporters when brought off with 10 minutes to play.
Sunderland had been left to rue the lack of a senior striker in the opening weeks of the campaign, struggling to turn their good play into points. Twenty minutes into this game it felt a familiar tale, the home side enjoying almost 70 per cent of the ball but yet to produce a shot.
When the first effort of the game was registered shortly after, it was the visitors who took the lead.
It was a lovely move to work the ball into the box, where Odoffin was surprisedto find himself free. The forward took one touch and rifled a low effort past Anthony Patterson.
There was relief in the Stadium of Light when it took just a minute for Mowbray’s side to respond, the ever-dangerous Jack Clarke cutting inside and standing up a cross to the back post. Dan Neil was there to meet it and Bellingham was able to convert his first senior goal from a matter of yards out.
Sunderland continued to enjoy the better of the contest and took the lead in the second half when Bellingham again was found free in the box, this time curling an effort past Viktor Johansson.
The midfielder came close to landing a remarkable hat-trick when he was found with a cross just moments later, but a strong block allowed Rotherham to stay in the game.
The visitors continued to threaten from set plays even if it was the hosts who were enjoying the better of the play, and substitute Tolaji Bola in particular will feel he could have done better when meeting a delivery into the box.
The scoreline meant the hosts were never comfortable even as substitute Luis Hemir went close with a powerful long-range effort late on, but the Black Cats were ultimately able to see out five minutes of stoppage time to secure a welcome victory.
Sunderland’s Tony Mowbray:
“It’s important we got the win as it can weigh heavy. I think we’ve been unfortunate not to get anything from two games having dominated, and I thought we deserved to win today.
“I think Jobe is disappointed he didn’t get more goals. He had a couple of good chances but he’s in the six-yard box and playing the role we’re asking him to play.
“He had to show good flexibility today because we pushed him higher up the pitch, and he got the goals for us.
“His greatest asset is he wants to learn, he’s asking us coaches questions every single day. He’s a joy to work with.”
Rotherham’s Matt Taylor:
“Hakeem has picked up a muscle injury. He scored a really good goal and then limped off, that’s where we are.
“It’s a culmination of playing so much of the start of the season with 10 men against good quality opposition. They’re really low at the moment in terms of their physical attributes and they’re at risk.
“We’ll keep on working, we’ve got offers out to players and we’re mainly waiting for the loan market. We need to get our injured players back as well, we’re almost at double figures and that’s not manageable.
“It’s incredible, so we need to improve that first and foremost and then look to the market.”