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Papa Johns Trophy

Match report: Sunderland AFC win 2021 Papa John's Trophy

The Black Cats lift their Wembley curse to end a long wait for silverware!

14 March 2021

Sunderland AFC ended their 48-year wait for a Wembley win, beating Tranmere Rovers 1-0 to claim the 2021 Papa John's Trophy at the home of football.

It was a second-half strike from Lynden Gooch - a man who has been with the club since he was 10 years old - that sealed the victory under the famous arch, and saw off a Tranmere side who had carved out several opportunities of their own.

Sunderland, who haven’t won at Wembley since 1973, were looking to win the EFL Trophy for the first time in their history, while Tranmere were looking to lift the famous trophy for the first time in over 30 years. The two sides have contrasting memories when it comes to playing at the National Stadium, but with both very much in the mix for promotion from their respective divisions, it was set up to be an exciting contest. 

It was the League One side who had the better of the possession in the opening exchanges, top-scorer Charlie Wyke the focal point up top with Lynden Gooch and Aiden McGeady looking to cause a problem in the wide areas.  

Sunderland goalkeeper Lee Burge had to be alert to make a couple clearances following good work from Tranmere’s Calum MacDonald and Danny Lloyd, as the game started to open up. 

The first attempt on goal came 15 minutes in, with Chris Maguire finding space in the box to get his shot away, but the Sunderland midfielder dragged his effort wide. 

Burge was called into action again, as he fought his way through a crowded box to punch a Liam Feeney free-kick to safety, before Maguire again came close to breaking the deadlock. This time, his deflected effort from the edge of the area sailed just inches wide of the post, with Max Power unable to trouble Scott Davies in the Tranmere goal with his header from the resulting corner.  

With no noticeable gap in quality between League One and League Two opposition, Tranmere responded with more positive play, this time through Otis Khan, but his cross into the box flew past everyone on the far side. 

A well-drilled Sunderland back-line dealt with the pressure imposed by Tranmere and, following an open first half, the sides went in level. 

The best opening of the game until that point came just three minutes into the second half, as Khan skipped past the Sunderland defence, drawing a big save from Burge, but the Black Cats responded as Wyke came just inches away from meeting a low cross across the box. 

Just before the hour mark, the deadlock was broken. After picking up the ball in his own half, McGeady played a perfectly-weighted pass through the middle of the Rovers defence,  setting Gooch away. The USA international took his time and picked his spot, with a confidently-placed finish past Davies. 

Tranmere responded well, Kaiyne Woolery and George Ray asking questions of the Sunderland defence, as Keith Hill’s side looked to respond. With the visitors in the ascendency, the Black Cats were made to work hard at the back to preserve their lead.

Substitute Corey Blackett-Taylor looked lively from the bench and drew a low save from Burge before, at the other end, McGeady's cross was flicked on and came off the top of the crossbar. Keith Hill rolled the dice once more, bringing on Jake Burton, with Rovers hoping to send the game to extra-time.

But Sunderland held their lead and celebrated wildly upon the full-time whistle, a moment which will live long in the memory for everyone associated with the club. Manager Lee Johnson had described the game as the start of Sunderland's "resurrection," and those on Wearside will be hoping it's just that.

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