Sunderland suffered a second damaging defeat in the space of five days as they were beaten by relegation strugglers Huddersfield Town at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats lost 2-0 at Plymouth Argyle on Saturday, with the Pilgrims claiming what was only their second win in nine games.
And this 2-1 home reverse came at the hands of a fourth-bottom Terriers side that had won just one of their previous 11 games. Michal Helik headed Huddersfield in front just before the half-hour, but Luke O'Nien levelled before the break.
Sunderland were pushing for a winner in the second half and twice went close before Delano Burgzorg scored against the run of play midway through the second period, and that turned out to be the decisive goal. Sunderland slip to 11th in the table, while Huddersfield stay fourth-bottom but are now six points above the drop zone.
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Tony Mowbray made three changes to the side that started the weekend defeat at Plymouth, with Spanish striker Eliezer Mayenda and French midfielder Adil Aouchiche making their first starts for the club in place of Nazariy Rusyn and Pierre Ekwah. The third change saw Jenson Seelt start ahead of Niall Huggins.
Huddersfield boss Darren Moore made one change, in his case to the side that drew against Southampton on Saturday, with Burgzorg replacing the injured Kian Harratt. Sunderland dominated possession in the first half but were slow and ponderous on the ball, while Huddersfield looked a real threat on the break.
Anthony Patterson made a crucial block to deny Jaheim Headley inside the first five minutes after good work from Burgzorg and then Josh Koroma down the right. On the quarter-hour, Burgzorg sent a shot into the sidenetting from a tight angle inside the area on the right, although Patterson looked to have it covered.
Sunderland's first real effort came just after the midway point in the half, but Aouchiche's shot from the left corner of the box was straight at keeper Chris Maxwell. Town took the lead on 28 minutes from a set-piece, with Sorba Thomas' corner from the left met by Tom Lees with a looping header and Helik got up highest to nod in from close range.
Sunderland responded well and Maxwell made a smart save to push a 25-yard free-kick from Jack Clarke away for a corner. But Sunderland levelled five minutes before the break.
A foul by Lees on Aouchiche near the right-hand touchline gave the Black Cats a free-kick, Roberts swung it in deep to the far post where Trai Hume headed it back across goal, Seelt looped a header towards goal and O'Nien was there to rifle the ball high into the net from close range. Sunderland were much brighter in the second half and twice went close to taking the lead.
On the hour, O'Nien's through ball put Bellingham in on goal but his finish was tentative and Maxwell made a good block. And a couple of minutes later, a blocked Bellingham shot came to Hume and his shot from 25 yards out looked destined for the top left-hand corner, only for Maxwell to launch himself to his right to claw it away for a corner.
But midway through the second period, Huddersfield went back in front against the run of play. A challenge on Headley saw the ball take a deflection which sent it to Burgzorg on the edge of the box, and he had space to hit a low shot which beat Patterson and found the bottom left-hand corner.
Sunderland poured forward late in the game in search of an equaliser and sub Alex Pritchard saw a free-kick pushed away, while Clarke saw a late shot saved. But Huddersfield held on to leave Sunderland frustrated and empty-handed.
How they lined up
Sunderland: Patterson, Seelt (Burstow 84), Ballard, O'Nien, Hume, Neil, Bellingham (Dack 74), Roberts (Ba 74), Aouchiche (Hemir 74), Clarke, Mayenda (Pritchard 74). Subs not used: Bishop, Huggins, Triantis, Ekwah
Booked: Aouchiche, Clarke
Huddersfield Town: Maxwell, Pearson, Helik, Lees, Jackson, Kasumu, Hogg (Edmonds-Green 88), Headley, Thomas, Burgzorg (Ward 68), Koroma (Diarra 68). Subs not used: Chapman, Edwards, Nakayama, Austerfield, Ayina, Iorpenda
Referee: Matt Donohue (Manchester)