Hartlepool United 0 Sunderland 3
Sunderland started their pre-season campaign with an impressive 3-0 win over Hartlepool United at Victoria Park.
Played against a stormy backdrop, the Black Cats’ performance was a thunderous one as an early double from Jermain Defoe and an opportunistic strike from Wahbi Khazri set the tone for a comfortable evening.
Wholesale changes were made at the break with a youthful Sunderland XI taking to the field in the second period, but it failed to turn the tide of the game despite Pools hitting the post with George Honeyman, Rees Greenwood and Duncan Watmore impressing.
The academy trio all tested the home side’s tiring backline, which included former Black Cat Scott Harrison, but it remained 3-0 and despite not adding to the scoreline Sunderland ran out as comfortable winners.
Sam Allardyce selected a strong side at Victoria Park with Defoe spearheading an attack which also included Jeremain Lens, Khazri and Fabio Borini.
And the Black Cats were equally as strong at the back with Vito Mannone protected by a back four of Billy Jones, Lamine Kone, Younes Kaboul and Patrick van Aanholt.
On paper Sunderland should’ve been home and dry before a ball was kicked, and it took just seven minutes for them to break the deadlock.
A long ball forward from Jones should have been dealt with by Toto Nsiala, but the defender was hassled and harried by Defoe who stole in on goal before sending a deft finish into the corner.
And seconds later he almost grabbed his second of the night, volleying precariously wide from 30 yards after spotting ‘keeper Trevor Carson stranded off his line.
Borini, unmistakable due to his daring new haircut, was next to try his luck but this time the crossbar came to Pools’ rescue, with Defoe’s stunning first touch setting a move in motion which would eventually see the Italian’s attempted lob caress the frame of the goal.
With 15 minutes played the woodwork – this time the post – once again came to the home side’s aid, Khazri bursting down the left before pulling the ball back to Defoe who put a defender on his backside before lashing the ball against the post.
Luck, however, was on Sunderland’s side, and the rebound fell to Khazri who drilled the ball into the empty net to make it 2-0.
Wave after wave of attack continued to crash against Carson’s goal and the Pools stopper did exceptionally well to deny Borini on the 20-minute mark, but his defence failed to clear and within an instant Defoe curled the ball into the top corner for a first-class third.
Sunderland went close to grabbing a fourth before the break on more than one occasion, but Khazri’s rasping effort flew wide, Carson produced a brilliant one-handed save to deny Jack Rodwell and Kone’s header clattered the crossbar.
Allardyce made 11 changes at the break with a youthful side emerging from the tunnel for the second period.
Jordan Pickford replaced Mannone with Honeyman, Lynden Gooch, Greenwood and Watmore also called upon, but despite a confident start to the second 45 they were lucky to survive an early scare as Nathan Thomas headed against the post.
Both Honeyman and Greenwood stood out as they settled into their rhythm and the former crafted an excellent opportunity soon after, but after linking well with Gooch his low effort flashed across the face of goal and squirmed to safety.
As the game ebbed past the hour mark Honeyman turned orchestrator picking out Watmore who surged into the box and eased past two defenders, but after doing the hard work he sent a powerful effort whistling past the post.
Both sides mustered further attempts at goal but the ‘keepers came out on top, meaning Sunderland picked up a resounding 3-0 win on their long-awaited return to action.
Sunderland (first-half): Mannone, Jones, Kone, Kaboul, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Rodwell, Lens, Khazri, Borini, Defoe.
Sunderland (second-half): Pickford, T Robson, Ledger, Beadling, J Robson, E Robson, Honeyman, Gooch, Greenwood, N’Zogbia, Watmore.