West Brom 1-2 Sunderland: Cirkin double moves Black Cats into play-offs
Two goals from left-back Dennis Cirkin sent Sunderland back into the Sky Bet Championship play-off zone with a 2-1 comeback win over West Brom at the Hawthorns.
The 21-year-old bagged a second-half brace to end Albion’s 12-match unbeaten home league record after John Swift had put Albion ahead from the spot immediately before half-time.
But it was a real end-to-end affair, especially in the second half, before Sunderland extended their unbeaten run to seven matches.
West Brom, backed by a noisy crowd, started brightly. Jed Wallace crossed low into the box but Jayson Molumby mis-kicked at the near post and Sunderland cleared their lines.
Albion fans called for a penalty when Molumby went sprawling after being caught by a challenge from Abdoullah Ba, but referee John Busby was unmoved.
It was Sunderland, however, who created the first chance when Joe Gelhardt’s volley was deflected over the bar off Molumby following a corner.
Albion were gifted a chance in the 35th minute.
A poor pass by Sunderland goalkeeper Anthony Patterson went straight to Wallace, but he could not react quickly enough and the ball rolled past him.
Sunderland were denied when Gelhardt cut in from the left and his curling shot was heading for goal until goalkeeper Alex Palmer, at full stretch, stuck out a hand to tip it behind.
The game turned in the 45th minute. Albion took the lead after Luke O’Nien brought down Swift just inside the box for a clear penalty.
Swift stepped up and calmly rolled the spot-kick low down the middle, comfortably beating Patterson, who dived left.
In an electric start to the second half, Albion had shots from five different players blocked in the same attack before Sunderland equalised in the 51st minute.
Molumby, Karlan Grant, Conor Townsend, Darnell Furlong and Swift were all foiled in quick succession.
Cirkin headed Sunderland level after Lynden Gooch somehow squeezed in a cross despite the close attentions of Townsend and Grant.
Albion appealed for another penalty when Semi Ajayi went down after O’Nien pulled his shirt, but the referee waved play on.
The home side went close when Townsend’s firm header was pushed over the bar by Patterson from Swift’s corner.
Dan Neil’s drive was then pushed away by Palmer, and Gelhardt rolled the rebound just wide.
Albion had the ball in the net when Okay Yokuslu smashed home a volley but the assistant’s flag had gone up after the ball went out of play.
Cirkin grabbed his and Sunderland’s second goal in the 84th minute.
The left-back controlled and finished neatly all in one movement after substitutes Edouard Michut and Alex Pritchard combined.
Albion had yet another penalty appeal rejected for a push on Townsend as he headed wide, before substitute Taylor Gardner-Hickman twice fired wide and Mo Faal shot straight at Patterson.