Sunderland Ladies began their season with an impressive 5-1 demolition of fellow Women’s Super League outfit Oxford United in the FA Cup at Eppleton CW on Sunday.
Rachel Furness’ first-half double, as well as a strike from debutant Rebekah Bass, gave the Lady Black Cats a 3-1 half-time lead before Beth Mead and Abbey Joice sealed the win.
Both sides struggled to make an attractive affair in difficult conditions in County Durham, though it was the Wearsiders who were regularly on the front foot.
Joice was denied in the early stages by the Oxford keeper after latching onto Bass’s cross before Brogan McHugh lifted over the bar from close range.
Sunderland took the lead after ten minutes as Vicki Greenwell’s corner found its way through the visitors’ defence to Furness who poked home at the far post.
The home side doubled their lead after 23 minutes following fine play through the middle by Kelly McDougall and Joice before the ball broke to Bass, who cleverly sidestepped her marker to stroke the ball home.
Oxford showed they were no pushovers as they almost pulled a goal back within a minute following a quick break forward; Helen King latched onto the ball and rounded Rachael Laws but she pulled her shot narrowly wide.
The visitors then reduced the arrears after 35 minutes as a free kick on the left was floated in to Louise Fellows who ghosted in at the back post to slot past the helpless Laws.
Furness restored the two-goal advantage when she headed Mead’s corner home five minutes before the break.
Joice made sure of the Lady Black Cats’ progress after two second-half minutes when McDougall won the ball and fed the young midfielder before she curled a wonderful effort into the top-left hand corner.
Oxford’s resistance was dealt a blow after 72 minutes when Sahara Osborne-Rickets brought down Furness in full flight and received a second yellow card.
Three minutes later it was game over as McDougall and Furness brought the ball away to release Sophie Williams, who crossed for Mead to control and turn her marker and fire low into the far corner of the net.