Report: Maja brace helps U23s to victory

Sunderland U23s 3-0 Southampton U23s

Sunderland under-23s produced a masterclass display as they dismantled undefeated Southampton in the Premier League 2 at Eppleton CW on Sunday. 

The young Black Cats raced out the blocks and went in front through Josh Maja who calmly slotted home from 12 yards after latching onto a loose ball. 

Southampton responded well but Maja struck just before the break as he headed home Josh Robson’s exquisite cross to double the hosts’ lead.  

Sunderland were forced to be more patient in the second period but George Honeyman’s tirelessly efforts came to fruition as his snapshot nestled into the bottom corner on the hour mark. 

From there the lads saw the game out to maintain their undefeated start to the season and in the process ended Saints’ 100% start. 

With Monday night’s late victory over Leicester City still ringing loudly in the ears of Andy Welsh’s young guns, Southampton provided the Black Cats with their next hurdle to overcome.  

Boasting two wins from two so far in the Premier League 2, the Saints took to the Eppleton pitch in optimistic fashion following impressive scalps over Liverpool and champions Manchester United.  

But Ethan Robson’s sublime free-kick had given Sunderland something to shout about themselves as they continue to strive to emulate the kind of form that saw them produce such a memorable title bid last term.

Keen to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign, the hosts flew out the traps and into an early lead.  

Maja capitalised on a loose ball before composure saw him round ‘keeper Adam Parkes and slot home from 12 yards.

Southampton steadied the ship and began to purr through the gears as they found their rhythm. Threatening through the middle on numerous occasions, Olufela Olomala’s power gave Michael Ledger and George Brady something to think about while Thomas O’Connor’s lung-bursting runs from deep added further cause for concern.

The visitors controlled the general ebb and flow of the game and that forced the young Black Cats to bide their time as they looked to pounce.

Rees Greenwood was given freedom to roam while (E) Robson began to pull the strings from the centre of the park as Maja and Honeyman went close to adding to the scoreline.

With 39 minutes on the clock, Max Stryjek was called into action for the first time as he made himself big to save at the feet of Olomola and preserve Sunderland’s lead.

Less than a minute later the lads raced down the other end and doubled their advantage, (J) Robson provided a sumptuous cross from the right which invited Maja time and space to pick his spot and head past Parkes.

The second period proved to be a much more scrappier affair as both sides really struggled to build any sizeable momentum.

Stryjek had little to do in goal as the young Black Cats saturated the Saints in the middle of park and made themselves difficult to break down.

With two rigid banks of four, patience was key for the young Black Cats and on the hour mark Honeyman was on hand to deal a decisive blow.

Like Monday night, the Beekeeper was on target to score his third goal in two games after a fine move down the right wing saw him ram the ball home with his right foot from close-range.

Moments later, Daniel Wright, who had quietly gone about his business in the middle of the park all afternoon, strode forward from deep and forced Parkes to palm his thunderous strike round the post. 

A late flurry of chances for Southampton saw the young Black Cats camped inside their penalty box during stoppage time, but the lads held firm and made sure of all three points and a valuable clean sheet.

Sunderland under-23s starting XI: Stryjek, J Robson, T Robson, Ledger, Brady, Greenwood, Wright, Embleton (Lawson, 60), Honeyman (Casey, 87), E Robson, Maja

Unused subs: Pain, Molyneux, Poame

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