Semi-finals Championship Playoffs: Sunderland beat Luton in first leg to move one step closer to Premier League

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By Webdesk

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The Black Cats of Sunderland are one step closer to a Premier League return after beating Luton Town 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Despite Luton scoring just 11 minutes into the game, Sunderland were able to fight back with goals from Amad Diallo and Trai Hume to kick things off. They now need to maintain their lead in the away leg on May 15 to book their place at Wembley in the final of the Championship Playoff, where the winner is promoted.

After falling through the lower divisions, promotion would be a great end to Sunderland’s season, but they can’t allow themselves to prejudge the work they have to do to get there. Luton exploited Sunderland’s size disadvantage by scoring from a corner kick through Elijah Adebayo in the 11th minute. Luton was able to head the ball around the penalty area nearly five times before it finally fell at the feet of their striker. Goals like this shouldn’t happen, it’s part of Sunderland’s defense that can be exploited.

But what Sunderland lacks in size they make up for in creativity, as their opening goal was scored from a free kick. Alex Pritchard rolled the ball to Diallo to move the defense slightly before the Manchester United mercenary scored his chance from outside the box, leveling the game in the 39th minute. If the team is promoted, keeping Diallo will probably be one of their priorities and his performance in the game showed why.

It was another show of creativity as Jack Clarke set up Hume just after the hour mark for the go-ahead goal, leaving Sunderland so close to Wembley they could almost smell it. They are already familiar with the area having won promotion from League One in the play-offs last season. Back-to-back promotions would be quite impressive. Tony Mowbray has done a good job preparing the side but he will have a problem for the second leg.

Pritchard was taken out with an injury towards the end of the match. His numbers may not jump off a page with four goals and six assists, but he has been instrumental in building the game for the team. With extensive Premier League experience, Pritchard has been an important part of such a young team and Mowbray will need to ensure that his absence does not lead to a situation where the team loses their return leg lead.

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