Millers edged out in Wearside....
Rotherham United failed to make the most of an early lead when Sunderland came from behind to record their first Sky Bet Championship points of the season thanks to a brace from 17-year old, Jobe Bellingham.
Hakeem Odoffin’s second goal of the season stunned the Stadium of Light momentarily but the home fans were soon back in fine voice when Bellingham cancelled out the Millers’ advantage almost immediately.
The highly-rated youngster had a day to remember as he grabbed the all important winner early in the second half – in what was his first and second senior goals.
Millers boss Matt Taylor was given a pre-match boost as he was able to call upon two summer recruits for their first competitive action.
Christ Tiehi – who officially joined yesterday for a club record fee from Czech club, Slovan Liberec - was handed his Rotherham debut while Andre Green, who completed a successful trial in pre-season, was also part of the starting eleven.
The Millers were more than a match for Tony Mowbray’s side in the early stages and Tiehi showed some composed touches while Green demonstrated a clever piece of skill which drew gasps of appreciation from the visiting faithful, who were housed on the top tier of one of the stands.
There was momentary cause for concern when Jack Clarke slipped in Dennis Cirkin, who was ushered out by Tiehi in the box, but no further action was taken.
Cirkin became the first to see yellow for cynically hauling back Ollie Rathbone before the Millers skipper stung the palms of Anthony Patterson with a touchline centre, just moments after Dexter Lembikisa’s run and pass was cut out.
There was little to report early on but the game sprang to life in and around the twenty minute mark with Rotherham taking the lead but which ultimately proved short-lived.
The Millers showed some quick, incisive passing which helped them work their way up the pitch and with the away fans serenading their team’s efforts, Rathbone’s threaded pass was inch-perfect for the stride of Odoffin, who wasted no time in getting a shot away and his low, drilled effort gave Patterson no chance, as it found the heart of the home goal.
The Stadium of Light was stunned into silence but it was a false dawn as Sunderland responded almost immediately.
Clarke – often a tormentor of the Millers – planted a deep cross which Dan Neil headed back into the danger area and Bellingham nodded home from close range although Viktor Johansson did his best to keep the ball out with a reactive save, but to Rotherham’s anguish, his effort dribbled over the line.
The decibel level was raised in the home ranks but it was Rotherham, who threatened next, when Cafu tried his luck with a free-kick from a wide angle but it was straight down the throat of Patterson.
Just before the half-hour mark, Taylor was forced into a midfield reshuffle with scorer, Odoffin, being in no position to continue and the Millers boss put his faith in Academy youngster Ciaran McGuckin, who had impressed in pre-season, to replace him.
The Millers had a scare when Cohen Bramall was penalised and in turn, yellow-carded, for bringing down Patrick Roberts just outside the box, but Roberts failed to exact retribution with the resultant free-kick with Bramall, ironically, charging down his effort.
The home side had upped the tempo and Clarke found himself in a one-on-one situation with Lembikisa, who had stuck to his task well, before the Sunderland winger cut inside to fire over from just outside the box.
Clarke was almost the grateful recipient of Lembikisa’s under hit back pass but Johansson spared his blushes with a timely clearance before the Swedish stopper was called into action again to deny Pierre Ekwah with a smothered save.
Half-time: Sunderland 1 Rotherham United 1
The Millers had the first sight of goal in the second 45 when Rathbone and Green combined to great effect with the latter making light work of Dan Ballard before delivering a teasing centre which Jordan Hugill failed to make the most of with a header which cleared the home crossbar.
Johansson had to be on his toes to snuff out Roberts’ cross following a quick home counter attack before Cameron Humphreys blocked Clarke’s low shot en-route to goal.
Nevertheless, the Millers failed to heed the warning though as Sunderland took the lead seven minutes into the half with the visitors guilty of surrendering possession far too easily.
The home side injected pace into a move which ended when Bradley Dack presented Bellingham with the chance to weigh up his options, and he cleverly took his time to pick his spot, and plant a curling effort which beat the outstretched hand of Johansson to find the far corner of the Millers goal.
The visitors were temporarily at sixes and sevens and Bellingham came close to claiming the match ball when Roberts’ picked him out, just yards out, but Humphreys stood up tall to block his goalbound effort.
The Millers gradually regained their composure and Cafu fizzed a free-kick which narrowly evaded visiting runners.
With just over 20 minutes to go, Taylor introduced a new look strike force with Tom Eaves – for his first season involvement - and Joshua Kayode replacing Hugill and Green.
Bellingham slightly blotted his copybook when he received a yellow card for a scything tackle on Cafu.
The Millers were struggling to create anything of note until sub Tolaji Bola headed harmlessly wide before Luis Hemir – with his first touch – had Johansson scrambling across goal, as a low shot whistled past the upright, at the other end.
Taylor’s side were very much in the game until the end but they rarely threatened in the latter stages and Sunderland held onto their slender lead to earn their first win of the season.
Full-time: Sunderland 2 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams: Sunderland- Patterson, Hume, Ballard, O’Nien, Cirkin, Neil, Ekwah, Roberts (Pritchard 77), Bellingham (Hemir 85) , Clarke, Dack (Gooch 85). Unused- Bishop, Huggins, Batth, Ba, Bennette, Triantis.
Rotherham- Johansson, Lembikisa, Bramall, Blackett, Cafu, Hugill (Eaves 67), Green (Kayode 67), Rathbone, Odoffin (McGuckin 29), Humphreys, Tiehi (Bola 76). Unused- Phillips, McCart, Morrison, Ayres.
Referee- Gavin Ward