Report: Sunderland U23 1-0 Blackburn Rovers U23

Seb Larsson made his return from injury as Sunderland U23’s chalked up a 1-0 win over their Blackburn Rovers counterparts in the Premier League Cup.

The Swede, playing his first game since picking up a medial ligament problem in pre-season, completed 45 minutes at Eppleton CW.

He made an impressive contribution before bowing out as planned at half time.

Meanwhile captain John O’Shea looked on from the stands having been ruled out of the first team’s trip to Bournemouth through injury.

Josh Maja scored what proved to be the winner just before the half-hour, firing home from close range.

The hosts dominated the first half but found themselves pegged back in the second, though there were chances at both ends.

Sunderland settled quickly early on, playing the ball around nicely with Larsson putting in a couple of early challenges in midfield.

They could have led early as Andrew Fisher in the Blackburn goal denied Maja one-on-one before pulling off an excellent stop after Rees Greenwood spun off his marker to meet a through ball.

Maja was causing problems and his clever work won a free-kick which Ethan Robson smashed against the post.

Sunderland took the lead just before the half-hour as their pressure eventually paid off.

A low cross from the right wasn’t dealt with by the Blackburn defence and there was Maja to turn the ball under Fisher from inside the six-yard box.

But for all Sunderland’s possession and chances they should have been pegged back six minutes before the break.

A cross found Blackburn’s Lewis Mansell six yards out, but the striker could only head wide with the goal at his mercy.

Larsson was replaced by Daniel Wright at half time having got a valuable 45 minutes under his belt on his return from injury.

That will be welcome news for manager David Moyes, who is hoping to also have midfielders Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff back in action soon.

Sunderland saw their lead well tested in the second half as goalkeeper James Talbot led their resistance.

The stopper kept out Mansell with a brilliant close-range save just before the hour as Blackburn, suppressed in the first half, poured forward in the second.

Key to that superiority were some quality balls into the box, but Sunderland stayed strong and counter-attacked well at times.

The hosts’ best chance of the half came in the final 20 minutes as Elliot Embleton looked to pick out the top corner with a curling free-kick which flashed narrowly over the top.

The same player had a shot blocked on the break late on, but it was Blackburn doing the late pushing and Talbot denied Tomlinson at full length to secure victory for his side.

Sunderland U23: Talbot, Casey (J Robson 82), T Robson, Ledger, Brady, Larsson (Wright 46), Molyneux, E Robson, Maja, Greenwood (Asoro, 73), Embleton.

Subs not used: Pain, Pybus.

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