New Millers chief Alan Stubbs took to the AESSEAL New York Stadium dugout for the first time and the home faithful were also given their first glimpse of Anthony Forde, who was handed a starting berth following his close season move from Walsall while fellow summer signings Lewis Price and Jake Forster-Caskey were named amongst the home substitutes.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when skipper Lee Frecklington ran hard from the heart of midfield before releasing Forde, who clipped a delicate cross which saw Danny Ward rise highest to power a downward header which fizzed wide of the target.
At the other end, Rotherham failed to clear their lines and Patrick Van Aanholt’s goalbound shot struck Kirk Broadfoot en-route to goal before Wahbi Khazri fired a free-kick straight down the throat of Lee Camp in the visitors’ next attack.
Minutes later, Jack Rodwell’s ball over the top was expertly controlled by Jermain Defoe, who got on the wrong side of Broadfoot before executing a superb lob, which caught Camp in no-man’s land, but fortunately for the Millers, his effort floated narrowly wide of the upright.
Minutes later, Stephen Kelly was fortunate to escape action for felling Defoe as he looked to strike on goal after Jeremain Lens’ slide-rule pass put the England striker in the clear.
From the resultant free-kick, Khazri fired an effort from just outside the box which struck Borini in the six-yard box before looping harmlessly wide of the target.
However, Sunderland broke the deadlock in their next foray of note when Defoe switched play to give Fabio Borini, the opportunity to strike on goal and the Italian striker fired a rasping effort from the edge of the box which Camp got a hand to, but the ball squirmed into the corner of the net.
The Millers responded well to the setback and after Halford was hauled over by Borini, the versatile operator almost his own retribution from the resultant free-kick when he struck an effort with his in-step which forced Jordan Pickford into a smart save as he parried the ball around the post.
Minutes later, Camp was forced to fly across goal to keep out Charles N’Zogbia’s long range free-kick before the Frenchman tried his luck with another free-kick, minutes later, but the Rotherham stopper was not troubled this time as it flew wide of the upright.
With half-time approaching, the Millers came close to levelling matters when Richie Smallwood’s clipped free-kick saw Broadfoot rise highest to nod the ball into the path of Danny Ward, who beat Pickford to the ball, but his header narrowly cleared the visitors crossbar.
Half-time: Rotherham United 0 Sunderland 1
The Millers were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and they got back on level terms when Ward’s deft flick saw Frecklington rampage from the heart of midfield to release Forde, whose first-time cross was superbly controlled by Jerry Yates in the six-yard box and the Millers youngster had the presence of mind to shrug off the attentions of his marker before drilling the ball into the corner of the net.
The home side were buoyed by the equaliser and Broadfoot’s cross from the right flank was hacked clear by Younes Kaboul, but the ball screwed towards his own goal forcing sub ‘keeper Vito Mannone into a smart save on his own line before Tom Thorpe’s rampaging run paved the way for Ward to strike goalwards but Mannone was again well-stationed to snuff out the danger.
In the Millers next attack, Kaboul was forced to head over from Thorpe’s tantalising centre before Richie Smallwood fired a free-kick into the Sunderland wall after Broadfoot was sent tumbling by Kaboul’s high challenge on the edge of the box.
Forde stung the palms of Mannone with a curling effort before Sunderland struck the winner when Duncan Watmore was held up in the box but the ball was relayed back into the path of Josh Robson, who presented N’Zogbia with the opportunity to drill a low effort from the edge of the box which beat the outstretched hand of Camp to nestle in the corner of the home goal.
In the last play of the game, Darnelle Bailey-King fired a cross which was controlled by Yates, who scuffed an effort narrowly wide of the target before the referee brought the game to a conclusion from the restart.
Full-time: Rotherham United 1 Sunderland 2
Teams: Rotherham- Camp, Kelly, Mattock (Thorpe 36), Halford (Forster-Caskey 40), Broadfoot, Wood, Forde, Frecklington (Dawson 69), Ward (Muskwe 86), Yates, Smallwood (Bailey-King 77) Unused- Price.
Sunderland- Pickford (Mannone 46), J Robson, Van Aanholt, Kaboul (Ledger 77), Kone (E Robson 85), N’Zogbia, Lens (Greenwood 86), Rodwell, Defoe (Honeyman 75), Khazri (Gooch 65), Borini (Watmore 56). Unused- T Robson, Asoro, Stryjek.
Referee- C Pawson
Attendance- 6676 (2979).