The Black Cats of Sunderland are one step closer to a Premier League return after defeating Luton Town 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Despite Luton scoring only 11 minutes into the match, Sunderland were able to fight back with goals from Amad Diallo and Trai Hume to kick things off on the right foot. They'll now need to preserve their lead in the away leg on May 15 to book their place at Wembley in the Championship Playoff final where the winner will secure promotion.
After tumbling through the lower divisions, promotion would be an amazing end to Sunderland's season but they can't let themselves get ahead of the job that they have to do in order to get there. Luton were able to exploit Sunderland's size disadvantage by scoring from a corner kick via Elijah Adebayo in the 11th minute. Luton were able to head the ball around the box almost five times before it eventually fell to the feet of their center forward. Goals like that shouldn't happen, it's an area of Sunderland's defense that can be exploited.
But what Sunderland lack in size, they make up for with creativity as their opening goal was scored via a free kick. Alex Pritchard rolled the ball to Diallo to move the defense slightly before the Manchester United loanee was able to score his chance from outside the box, evening the match in the 39th minute. If the team gets promoted, keeping Diallo will likely be one of their priorities and his performance in the match showed why.
It was another show of creativity when Jack Clarke set up Hume just past the hour mark for the go ahead goal leaving Sunderland so close to Wembley they can practically smell it. They're already familiar with the environment after winning promotion from League One in the playoffs only last season. Back-to-back promotions would be quite impressive. Tony Mowbray has done a good job getting the side prepared but he'll have one issue to deal with ahead of the second leg.
Pritchard was subbed off with an injury near the end of the match. His numbers may not jump off a page with four goals and six assists, but he has been important to build up play for the team. Having extensive Premier League experience, Pritchard has been an important part of such a young team and Mowbray will need to make sure that his absence doesn't lead to a situation where the team drops their advantage in the second leg.