Sunderland travel to Arsenal in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night. On paper, Arsenal should have too much for their League One opposition. However, upsets can and do happen.
The Black Cats will head to the Emirates with nothing to lose due to the Gunners being overwhelming favourites. Sunderland, however, are no stranger to upsetting the odds.
Here is a look back at just five games where Sunderland defied the odds and emerged victoriously.
Top Five Biggest Sunderland Upsets as Black Cats Prepare for League Cup Clash
Vs Arsenal (1973)
The 1973 FA Cup semi-final saw then Second Division Sunderland pitted against the mighty Arsenal, who sat second in England’s top flight.
The Gunners were odds on favourites to reach their third successive final.
Despite this, the underdogs were confident having beaten the early favourites to win the cup, Manchester City, and dispatched Luton Town comfortably in the quarter-final.
Manager Bob Stokoe was in a confident mood ahead of the game, he said: “Sunderland will today become the first club from the Second Division to reach the FA Cup Final for nine years.
“For once Arsenal’s luck will run out. For once fate will give their opponents the breaks. I’m convinced of that as much as I am that Sunderland are on the verge of greatness again.”
A crowd of 55,000 packed into Sheffield Wednesday’s home ground of Hillsborough and witnessed an end to end game.
Sunderland took an early lead and doubled their advantage midway through the second half.
A late Arsenal goal was merely a consolation as the men from Wearside held on to record an impressive 2-1 win in one of the biggest Sunderland upsets in the club’s history.
Vs Leeds United (1973)
If only a few gave Sunderland a chance in the semifinal, no one outside of Wearside had any hope for the Second Divison side when they faced the mighty and current FA Cup holders Leeds United in the final.
Many were predicting an easy win for United with Sunderland doing well if the scoreline remained respectable.
United fielded an impressive ten internationals for the final and with the squad experienced both in domestic and European competitions, some wondered why Sunderland would even want to turn up.
It had been more than forty years since a Second Divison side had won the cup and to the watching world prior to kick-off, the wait would almost inevitably continue.
However, Sunderland had other ideas. Backed by their travelling army of fans, they took the game to Leeds coming close on several occasions before stunning the football world by taking the lead in the 31st minute. Ian Porterfield with an unstoppable volley from a corner kick.
Leeds pushed for an equaliser and came as close as can be imagined in the second half. United’s Trevor Cherry saw his header saved by Sunderland goalkeeper Jim Montgomery; however, he could only parry the ball into the path of Peter Lorimer who drove the ball back towards goal.
It looked a certain goal but somehow, Montogomery was able to divert the ball up onto the crossbar before it was finally cleared. The save would be replayed for years to come.
Despite almost conceding Sunderland almost doubled their lead before the final whistle saw iconic scenes of manager Bob Stokoe running onto the field to hug his goalkeeper.
Vs Newcastle United 1990
When looking back on some of the biggest Sunderland upsets, it is almost impossible to miss off this one.
The 1990 playoff semi-final pitted two teams with one of the biggest rivalries in the country. Both Sunderland and Newcastle had missed out on automatic promotion and would now face each other over two legs in the hope of reaching the final and then England’s top flight.
The first game was played at Sunderland’s Roker Park. The game finished 0-0 with the hosts missing a late penalty and having left-back Paul Hardyman sent off in the aftermath.
Newcastle believed their job was done and merely had to turn up at their own ground to progress to the final. Many thought they were correct and that the Black Cats had blown their best chance of progressing.
However, they had been impressive on their travels that season and despite many giving them little chance of defeating their noisy neighbours, there was confidence in the squad – especially with a strike partnership of Eric Gates and Marco Gabbiadini who regularly terrorised defences.
An overconfident St.James Park crowd was expecting an easy night; however, they got a night that they would soon want to forget.
Sunderland surged forward and took an early lead through Gates. Both teams created chances but late in the game Gabbiadini scored Sunderland’s second to send them to the final. A pitch invasion by Newcastle fans in an attempt to get the game called off was to no avail with the Black Cats holding on for the final few minutes easily.
Vs Chelsea (1992)
Many of the biggest Sunderland upsets come from FA Cup runs as a Second Division side.
In 1992, the Black Cats were struggling in the league but in the cup, they looked a different side.
They had defeated West Ham United in the previous round after an epic encounter at Upton Park to reach this quarter-final.
The tie at Stamford Bridge ended in a 1-1 draw with the visitors surprising their opponents at how good they could be. The replay at Roker Park would be another great cup night on Wearside.
Many believed the struggling Black Cats would run out of lives in the replay with a strong Chelsea team expected to learn for the first game and progress with ease.
A packed Roker Park with the Roker Roar in full voice saw their team attack their top-flight opponents and deservedly take the lead.
Despite more chances, their half-time lead was a slender one. Chelsea were expected to come at Sunderland in the second half, and they did just that.
Sunderland had run themselves into the ground and as they began to tire, the Blues began to dominate, creating chance after chance.
With six minutes remaining, Dennis Wise equalised. The game appeared to be going only one way, Chelsea winning.
However, Sunderland somehow managed to get out of their half with Chelsea concerning a needless corner. The corner was placed to the edge of the area where midfielder Gordon Armstrong met it with a bullet header that flew into the corner.
Few last gasp winners have brought such noise and wild celebrations as that one did. This night proved that the magic of the FA Cup remains alive.
Vs Manchester United (2014)
The Capital One Cup draw in 2014 saw the Black Cats drawn against fellow Premier League side Manchester United.
Although they were in the same division, Sunderland were struggling at the wrong end of the table. United were believed to have too much for their opponents over two legs and already had one eye on a possible Wembley final with neighbours Manchester City.
The first leg at the Stadium of Light saw Sunderland win 2-1 but still, few gave them little chance of travelling to Old Trafford and walking out victorious. Even the 9,000 travelling Red and White Army believed it could be a tough night. A tough night it was but it’s one that will be remembered for a long time.
Defender Jonny Evans put United into a half-time lead; however, with neither side able to add to the scoreline, the game went into extra time. Due to United scoring in the away leg, should the score remain the same then they would progress.
With two minutes remaining, Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley thought he’d sent the Black Cats to Wembley after seeing his long-range effort slip through the fingers of David de Gea and trickling into the corner of the net.
The game went into injury time and another twist was added to the game when Javier Hernandez scored during a goalmouth scramble to send the game to penalties.
In a dreadful but nail-biting shoot-out, ten penalties were taken but only three were scored. Two of those by Sunderland to send them to Wembley and create scenes of euphoria at the end of Old Trafford where the Red and White army celebrated another famous underdog story.