Sunderland U23 2-4 Manchester City U23
Paolo Fernandes produced a masterclass display as Sunderland under-23s suffered their first defeat in the Premier League 2 at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
City dominated the early stages and went in front on 18 minutes as Fernandes arrowed a fine strike from 25-yards into the top corner.
Chances came and went for Sunderland as they battled back but Fernandes dealt a knockout blow just before the break as he doubled City’s lead with another sumptuous strike from range.
Rees Greenwood halved the deficit on the hour mark before Lukas Nmecha restored City’s two-goal lead from the penalty spot 10 minutes later.
To Sunderland’s credit though they kept battling away and Elliot Embleton set up a grandstand finish with a goal on 79 minutes.
But City held firm and dealt with the Black Cats onslaught as Nmecha headed home in stoppage time to round off a fine display from the visitors.
Fresh and recharged from their heroics on Tuesday evening at Goodison Park, league-leaders Sunderland welcomed Manchester City to the SoL as they looked to extend their stay at the top of the Premier League 2.
Andy Welsh made one change to his starting XI as first-team player Billy Jones continued his road to recovery from injury. Elsewhere, Tom Beadling remained in the centre of the park alongside Ethan Robson as George Brady and Michael Ledger continued their partnership at the back.
With a crisp September sun beating down on the SoL pitch, Manchester City raced out the traps and quickly asserted their authority on the game as Sunderland were left chasing shadows in the early stages.
City whipped the ball from left to right but were largely wasteful in possession until Fernandes lashed home a rasping drive from 25 yards on 18 minutes to hand the visitors a deserved lead.
From there Simon Davies’ side romped through the gears but lacked a cutting edge as pass after pass went astray in the final third, and that allowed Sunderland grow into the game.
And grow they did.
Good play from Josh Maja saw him fashion the Black Cats’ first effort of the afternoon. A quick faint from the forward saw him work the ball onto his left foot before Billy O’Brien got down to pull off a smart stop.
Wave after wave of attack ensued from Sunderland after that, Jones fired wide while Rees Greenwood proved to be a constant threat from the left flank.
However, City tempered the Black Cats and Fernandes dealt a sucker punch just before the break as he bent an effort from 25-yards out with the outside of his boot into the top corner to leave Max Stryjek well beaten.
City continued on the front foot following the restart, Stryjek made himself big to deny Angelino Tasende before further pressure saw last ditch defending from Tommy Robson come to Sunderland’s aid.
Andrew Nelson was introduced just before the hour mark in replace of Josh Maja as the Black Cats looked to battle back, and with 61 minutes on the clock the hosts halved the deficit.
Greenwood’s trickery had Pablo Maffoe back pedalling, and the winger made the most of the opportunity as he found the bottom corner to give Sunderland a glimmer of hope.
But as the Black Cats looked to build a head of stream, Greenwood commited a foul on Nmecha inside the area and that left the referee with no choice but to award a penalty.
On as a second-half substitute, Nmecha dusted himself down and sent Stryjek the wrong way to restore their two-goal cushion.
Sunderland refused to lie down and struck back on 78 minutes as Embleton tried his luck from outside the box and was rewarded as O’Brien misjudged the bounce of the ball and it ended up in the back of the net.
However, any hopes of a late comeback diminished as Nmecha headed past Stryjek in stoppage time to seal victory over Sunderland.
Sunderland under-23s starting XI: Stryjek, Jones, (J Robson, 62) T Robson, Beadling (Wright 76), Ledger, Brady, Embleton, E Robson, Greenwood, Honeyman, Maja (Nelson, 59)
Unused subs: Pain, Lawson
Manchester City under-23s starting XI: O’Brien, Maffeo, Humphreys, Adarabioyo, Tasende, Horsfield, Fernandes (Diallo, 87), Kongolo, Buckley-Ricketts (Nmecha, 70), Diaz, Nemane
Unused subs: Oliver, Haug, Dilrosun