Sunderland 1-1 Derby: Bradley Johnson and Lewis Grabban strike in Sky Bet Championship opener
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 06/08/17 8:17pm
Sunderland began life in the Sky Bet Championship with a 1-1 draw at home to Derby in Simon Grayson's first game in charge.
Derby took the lead after 11 minutes against the run of play through Bradley Johnson, but the Black Cats equalised via a Lewis Grabban spot-kick on 42 minutes.
Grabban smashed an effort against the post in the second period, while Chris Martin passed up a golden chance to put Derby back in the lead with 15 minutes to go but neither side could find a winner.
As it happened
Catch-up on all the live updates from Sunderland's 1-1 draw with Derby in the opening game of the Sky Bet Championship season.
Sunderland started with six of their seven new signings in the shape of Jason Steele, Tyias Browning, Brendan Galloway, Aiden McGeady and James Vaughan. Derby started new boys Tom Huddlestone, Curtis Davies and Andre Wisdom, while Darren Bent, George Thorne (both hamstring), and Jason Shackell (back) were injured.
Sunderland, who are still without a league win at home in August since 2010, started the brighter of the two sides and created the first clear opening after 10 minutes, when 22-year-old academy graduate George Honeyman raced into the box, lifted the ball over the 'keeper and it fell to Aiden McGeady with the goal gaping but Andre Wisdom did superbly to block.
Derby took the lead a minute later courtesy of Johnson, due mostly to some outstanding play by Johnny Russell.
Tom Huddlestone sent a raking ball out to the right wing, and Russell brought it down with the most exquisite of first touches before driving past Brendan Galloway and finding Johnson via a deflected cross, who couldn't miss.
From there Sunderland showed great appetite and fight to force their way back on top, with Scott Carson called upon to make a magnificent save from Lee Cattermole in the 25th minute.
Sunderland equalised four minutes before half-time as referee Oliver Langford punished Jacob Butterfield for a handball while falling to the floor, allowing Grabban to bury the resulting penalty into the corner.
The second half lacked the urgency of the first and was a much more sedate affair, though both sides had chances to take the lead through Grabban who was unlucky to see his effort cannon off the post near the hour mark, and Martin, who should have scored when played through by substitute Matej Vydra but lofted over.
Sunderland: Steele (6), Jones (6), Galloway (5), Browning (7), Kone (6), Cattermole (8), Ndong (6), Honeyman (7), McGeady (6), Vaughan (6), Grabban (7).
Derby: Carson (7), Forsyth (5), Keogh (6), Russell (7), Wisdom (7), Johnson (6), Butterfield (6), Davies (6), Huddlestone (7), Weimann (6), Martin (6). Subs: Vydra (6), Nugent (N/A)
Man of the match: Lee Cattermole.
- Sunderland still have not won a league game in August since 2010.
- The Blacks Cats are also still searching for their first home win since December 2016, a run of 230 days.
- Lewis Grabban scored for a third club on his debut - Brentford (2010), Rotherham (2011) and Sunderland (2017).
- Derby played Sunderland on the opening day for the eighth time; only three fixtures have been played more frequently as a season opener.
- Simon Grayson is the sixth Sunderland manager unable to win his first game in charge since Martin O'Neill in December 2011, after Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat, Sam Allardyce and David Moyes.
Simon Grayson: I was just asking him [referee] why we didn't get a couple of decisions go our way. We seemed to be on the wrong end of them. It was just me trying to claim things that probably Gary (Rowett) didn't agree with and I did, so it's part and parcel of a manager trying to show a bit of passion and trying to win the game.
I thought we played well. It was always going to be difficult when you have a sort of hangover from last season. I thought we started the game extremely well and they scored against the run of play and the biggest thing for me was they showed immense character not to let that affect them.
Gary Rowett: I thought it was harsh [the penalty]. I can understand it, I can understand why the referee's given it. Butterfields' arm has come out and I think the way he's fell it's kind of flung in the direction of the ball, but he's certainly not meant to do it, it certainly wasn't intentional and I think he fell over and almost fell into the ball. But I'm not massively going to complain about that.
Second half I thought we were much better than we were first-half, I felt as though we had the majority of the game second-half and we just couldn't quite turn some of the good play into as many opportunities we would like.
Chris Martin obviously had a great chance, Nugent had a good chance. We got in some really good positions and the final ball let us down.
Sunderland face a trip to Bury in the Carabao Cup on Thursday night, live on Sky Sports Football, before visiting Norwich in the Sky Bet Championship next Sunday. Gary Rowett's Derby, meanwhile, have a cup trip to Grimsby on Tuesday, before hosting Wolves in the league four days later.