Fabio Borini’s winner lifted Sunderland’s hopes of Capital One Cup glory as Manchester United last night slipped to a third successive defeat.
Scorers: Sunderland - Giggs (og 45), Borini (65 pen); Manchester Utd - Vidic (52)
The Italian’s 65th-minute penalty handed Gus Poyet’s men a precious 2-1 first-leg advantage in their semi-final showdown with United, who misfired once again on Wearside.
Borini, the man whose goal secured derby victory over Newcastle earlier this season, nervelessly converted to condemn the visitors to three defeats in a row for the first time since May 2001, and the result will send Sunderland to Old Trafford on 22 January with high hopes of reaching their first major final since 1992.
The Black Cats, who remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League table, had taken the lead at the end of the first half as veteran Ryan Giggs suffered a night to forget. The 40-year-old proved a central figure, but not in the way he might have wished as his luck deserted him.
Adnan Januzaj’s 38th-minute strike, which would have given United the lead, was chalked off because the Welshman was offside when the 18-year-old’s initial shot hit him in front of goal, and it was Giggs who handed the home side the advantage in injury time. Giggs found himself patrolling at the far post when Wes Brown drilled Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick in his direction and as Phil Bardsley attempted to dispatch it, he turned it into his own net.
The visitors dragged themselves back into the game when returning central defender Nemanja Vidic struck with a towering 52nd-minute header, but the drama was far from over.
Substitute Adam Johnson lured Tom Cleverley into an ill-judged challenge on the edge of the box and, after consulting his assistant, referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot to hand Borini his big chance.
He expertly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to put United on the back foot once again, and although the visitors threw men forward as time ran down, they rarely threatened to square the tie. Scotland international Darren Fletcher continued his recovery from a bowel injury by coming on in the 74th minute but it wasn’t enough time for the midfielder to make a telling impact.
The tie, of course, is far from over and United, who were watched by their former manager Sir Alex Ferguson and director Sir Bobby Charlton, may approach the second leg confident of clawing back the deficit. However, they have already lost five times at Old Trafford this season – to West Brom, Everton, Tottenham, Newcastle and Swansea – and Sunderland will travel dreaming of a first trip to the League Cup final since 1985.
Afterwards, Sunderland defender John O’Shea, a former United player, was delighted with the first-leg lead and hopes the team can repeat this sort of form when they resume their league campaign at Fulham on Saturday.
“The players know we have plenty of quality, we just need to use it at the right times,” explained O’Shea.
“On one-off occasions we have proved we are capable of doing it and we know we are good enough but good teams have gone down before.
“A result like today though will go a long way to helping us because it shows what we can do and we have to build on it. But it’s not over yet.”
Sunderland manager Poyet added: “We know it’s not easy to beat United but now we go to Old Trafford with a lead. It’s been a long time since we were in a final so we will try our best.”
Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Alonso, Larsson, Cattermole, Ki, Giaccherini (Johnson 56), Fletcher (Altidore 72), Borini. Subs not used: Gardner, Celustka, Colback, Ji, Dixon.
Manchester Utd: De Gea, Rafael Da Silva, Vidic, Evans (Smalling 61), Evra, Carrick, Cleverley (Fletcher 74), Valencia (Hernandez 87), Giggs, Januzaj, Welbeck. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Kagawa, Buttner, Zaha.
Referee: A Marriner