Sunderland 2 Udinese 0

by Oscar Chamberlain

Vergini and Wickham on target in friendly win.

Sunderland completed their pre-season campaign with a 2-0 win over Udinese at Heritage Park.

Santiago Vergini proved to be the difference, opening the scoring with 56 minutes played before winning a penalty 60 seconds later.

Connor Wickham stepped up to take the spot kick and he calmly finished, as Gus Poyet’s side capped off their pre-season campaign in style.

Poyet made six changes to the side who beat Real Betis 2-0 on Thursday night, with Costel Pantilimon, John O’Shea, Charis Mavrias, Jordi Gomez, Lee Cattermole and Steven Fletcher all starting.

The first opportunity of the match fell to the Black Cats after just three minutes, as Vergini clipped a ball over the top to Mavrias, who powered a half-volley over the crossbar.

With six minutes played the Italians mustered their first attempt on goal through Silvan Widmer, who connected with Luis Fruto Muriel’s teasing corner to loop a header into the hands of Pantilimon.

Muriel continued to threaten, smashing a shot at goal where Pantilimon saved with ten minutes played.

Both sides continued to enjoy possession of the ball, but it was the visitors who created the better chances in the opening stages, with Widmer almost getting on the end of a Cyril Thereau cross before Bubnjic flashed a shot over the top.

Sunderland’s best opportunities were crafted down the left with new signing Patrick van Aanholt giving Widmer a torrid time, bursting down the wing and beating the right-back on numerous occasions.

With 24 minutes played it was pinball time, as Gomez’s corner deflected off a number of players before eventually being hacked clear, with the Black Cats’ mild penalty appeals dismissed by the referee.

Fletcher and Wickham led the line well for Sunderland, and despite not having many clear cut chances in the opening half-hour they worked tirelessly to hold up the ball, with Wickham almost stealing through on goal on 28 minutes.

Three minutes later the Black Cats switched on the style, tearing the Udinese defence apart as Wickham, Fletcher and van Aanholt combined, before Jack Rodwell saw a shot blocked on the edge of the box.

Moments later it was Udinese’s turn to threaten, as good build-up play saw Muriel burst into the box where Pantilimon stretched to claim possession of the ball.

With 37 minutes played the Romanian goalkeeper was called into action once more, as he clawed the ball over the crossbar after Loureiro Allan let fly from 30 yards.

Two minutes later the Black Cats were forced into their first change, as the impressive van Aanholt was replaced by Liam Agnew, having picked up a knock moments before.

Udinese then almost went in front, as Wes Brown’s misplaced pass sent Munriel one on one with O’Shea. The Colombian then weaved in and out before shooting at goal but Pantilimon was equal to it to turn the ball to safety.

The Black Cats made two changes at the break, with Liam Agnew and Vito Mannone replacing Rodwell and Pantilimon for the second 45 minutes.

And Poyet’s side made a bright start to the second period, with Wickham powering his way into Udinese territory before being brought down 25 yards from goal - the forward stepped up to take the free kick but was denied by Zeljko Brkic who made a fine save.

With 56 minutes played the Black Cats took the lead, as Vergini bundled the ball over the line after getting on the end of a Gomez corner.

One minute later the hosts were awarded a penalty, and it was Vergini again who took centre stage after being clattered to the ground following excellent work from Agnew on the edge of the box.

Wickham stepped up and the forward made no mistake, placing the ball down the middle to score his second goal in as many games.

Further changes followed as goalscorers Vergini and Wickham were replaced by Valentin Roberge and Jozy Altidore, with the latter making his first appearance of pre-season following a hamstring injury.

It could have been three on 70 minutes as Brkic made a good save to deny Agnew, who tried to poke the ball beyond the goalkeeper after weaving into the box.

The Italians continued to search for a route back into the game, and six minutes later they almost found one as substitute Fernandes Bruno forced Mannone into a good save at his near post.

Both sides created chances in the latter stages, with Agnew being denied a penalty before Muriel burst into the danger zone and curled a shot wide of Mannone’s post.

It would remain 2-0, however, with Sunderland completing their pre-season with an impressive win ahead of next weekend’s Barclays Premier League opener against West Bromwich Albion.

Next stop, the Hawthorns. 

Sunderland: Pantilimon (Mannone, 46), van Aanholt (T Robson, 39), Brown, O’Shea, Vergini (Roberge, 61), Cattermole (Bridcutt, 85), Gomez (N’Diaye, 71), Rodwell (Agnew, 46), Wickham (Altidore, 61), Mavrias (Watmore, 75), Fletcher (Graham, 71).