- Wigan Athletic started brightly at the Stadium of Light and went ahead after 15 minutes when Will Keane’s strike came back off the post and Gwion Edwards scored on his debut.
- The Black Cats were level two minutes later following the award of a controversial penalty by referee Bobby Madley – Aidan McGeady converting the spot kick.
- Latics struggled for cohesion in the second half and the hosts edged the three points when Ross Stewart headed home from a corner.
- It had been a battling performance by Latics but with such a new-look squad it was perhaps inevitable that they would take some time to settle.
It was great to be back watching live football after the Covid restrictions and the club’s administration problems and Latics were backed by 2,000 followers in a crowd of 31,549 at the Stadium of Light.
The kick off was delayed by 15 minutes due to traffic problems and Latics had the better of the opening period. They went close on three occasions, first when Callum Lang set up Tendayi Darikwa whose shot was blocked in front of keeper Lee Burge and then the follow up from Edwards was also cleared before Power’s goal-bound 25-yard strike was headed away.
The visitors deservedly went ahead on 15 minutes with a well worked move down the right-hand side. Captain Tendayi Darikwa pushed forward and set up Will Keane on the edge of the box. His right footed volley struck the post before Edwards followed up and curled the ball into the top corner.
But the Black Cats were level two minutes later following a harsh penalty award against Darikwa by controversial referee Bobby Madley whose dubious decision-making was evident throughout.
Darikwa was shoulder to shoulder with Stewart and the forward went down easily under the challenge.
The decision was to be the turning point in the game and Latics never managed to recover.
Madley did Latics no favours last season when he failed to give a penalty for a foul on Callum Lang against Hull City and has previously been criticised for his refereeing for making too many dubious decisions by former Premier League referees Keith Hackett, Graham Poll and Mark Halsey in the 2017/18 season.
The hosts went close to taking the lead four minutes later when Tom Flanagan’s header was well saved by Ben Amos from Aidan McGeady’s corner.
Tom Pearce then kept the scores level when threw his body in front of Elliot Embleton’s volley after a sustained period of Sunderland pressure.
But Latics responded and went close as Wyke linked up well with Lang who cut the ball back for Power on the edge of the area only to see his effort deflected over.
Ten minutes before the break the hosts should have gone in front as McGeady chipped the ball towards the edge of the six-yard box, where Embleton headed over when he looked odds on to score.
Latics started the second half slowly and the hosts were ahead following a corner on 54 minutes. From Embleton’s corner Stewart was allowed to glance a header past Amos.
As the second half progressed Sunderland grew in confidence and Latics struggled for cohesion. Instead of building through midfield Latics resorted to the long straight ball up to striker Charlie Wyke and they were unable to get down the flanks and get crosses in from wide positions.
Just after the hour mark, Stewart had a great chance to double the lead, but his header at the back post was wide of Amos’ left-hand post.
Sunderland continued to threaten and on 66 minutes Lynden Gooch curled an effort against the crossbar.
At the other end, Latics broke forward and with options left and right the welsh winger Edwards fired a powerful effort at Burge from 25-yards, the keeper was only able to parry the shot but the danger was eventually cleared.
Jordan Jones, Stephen Humphrys and Jordan Cousins replaced Tom Naylor, Keane and Edwards as Latics went in search of the equaliser but they were unable to carve out any clear-cut chances and Sunderland secured the three points.
A disappointing opening day result but it was perhaps inevitable with eight debutants that Latics didn’t always gel together. It’s very early days for the new squad and Leam Richardson will want more time on the training ground and with so many new recruits it will take awhile before everyone gains a real understanding.