Sunderland booked their place in the Capital One Cup final, sealing victory after extra time with a 1-2 penalty shootout victory. Johnny Evans and Javier Hernandez scored for the hosts, while Phil Bardsley scored for the visitors.
Manchester United, reeling from their comprehensive 3-1 defeat at the hands of Chelsea, were looking to overturn a 2-1 deficit against the Black Cats and set up a juicy final with neighbours Man City at Wembley on March 2.
With reports stating the £38 million bid for out-of-favour Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata was at an advanced stage with the Spaniard’s medical happening tomorrow, the Red Devils lined up once again without strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, and had difficulty opening up Gus Poyet’s dogged side in the early stages of the tie.
Vito Mannone, the former Arsenal keeper, was drawn into a two handed low save from a Hernandez header that connected with an Adnan Januzaj free kick. The visitors responded with 1st leg match winner Fabio Borini unable to keep an inviting chance to hit a volley down but De Gea looked to get nowhere near the effort.
Ten minutes from halftime, Kagawa found space in the Sunderland area after picking the ball up in the middle from a Januzaj through ball and the Japanese midfielder floated a ball to the back post that Fletcher struck against the post before the rebound was smothered by a charging Mannone. United earned a corner from this pressure and the young Belgian’s whipped delivery found Welbeck on the turn, who diverted the ball into the path of Jonny Evans. Evans peeled off O’Shea in the process and made no mistake from 5 yards to head it in for 1-0. Both players have had loan spells at tonight’s opponents.
The second half saw United continue to press their advantage and grow in confidence but their efforts never tested Mannone, as Januzaj and Rafael shot high and wide respectively. Sunderland knew that they only needed a goal to force a reaction from the Champions but they had not created a shot on target going into the last 15 minutes of normal time. Adam Johnson did bring a cross down in space but his volley was blocked by Buttner. Marcos Alonso agonisingly watched a swerving volley shave De Gea’s far post.
Extra time saw both sides huddled, Poyet animated and Moyes less so. It was Sunderland that were knocking on the door with set pieces but a gambling run on the right flank saw Januzaj ghost past Colback and set Hernandez off on a one-on-one but his early effort on his weaker side went harmlessly wide.
Fatigue began to play a part as the pitch was stretched but when United did break, Januzaj opted to go for goal himself more often than not he did find his support as the score remained the same since the first half.
Sunderland kept trying and trying, Phil Bardsley pounced on a second ball and flashed a cross dangerously wide with 5 minutes left to play. But with a minute left to play Bardsley, who left Manchester United 6 years ago today, had the ball 20 yards out and let fly to watch De Gea hopelessly palm the ball into his own bottom corner with the Black Cats surely going to the new Wembley for the 1st time.
But no. Manchester United drove on from the restart and star man Adnan Januzaj played a one-two with Smalling, drove to the byline and his low cross evaded Sunderland legs for the poacher Hernandez to strike the bottom of the bar on its way in to set up a penalty shootout. The Mexican almost missed but luck was on Moyes’ side after the mistake of his goalkeeper.
Craig Gardner went up first and blazed it over. Welbeck shot over the opposite post. Steven Fletcher’s penalty went low to the left but De Gea palmed it away. Darren Fletcher, captain on the night went the same way as his namesake but had the pace to beat Mannone: 1-0. Marcos Alonso struck a real confident penalty to De Gea’s right before Januzaj’s penalty was saved easily: 1-1. Ki showed a cool head and sunk his penalty, then Phil Jones skied his: 1-2. Adam Johnson had the chance to win the shootout but De Gea guessed right and got two strong hands behind a penalty that was not finding a corner. Rafael had to score his penalty to keep United in it but Mannone was Sunderland’s hero and kept the shot out.
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Buttner (Evra 83); Januzaj, Carrick (Jones 94), Fletcher, Kagawa (Valencia 61); Welbeck, Hernandez.
Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Alonso, Brown, O’Shea (c), Cattermole (Gardner 82), Colback, Ki, Johnson, Borini (Altidore 85), Fletcher.