Sunderland 2-0 Cardiff City
A silky smooth first-half display saw Sunderland under-23s cruise past Cardiff City to remain unbeaten in the Premier League Cup at Eppleton CW on Sunday.
Chances were aplenty for the young Black Cats in the opening period with Rees Greenwood in the right place at the right time to stab home Ethan Robson’s parried strike on 25 minutes.
The lads doubled their lead four minutes later, Tom Beadling was this time the man on hand to poke home after Elliot Embleton’s driven free-kick.
Last ditch defending from Jordan Blaise then denied Greenwood a second and Sunderland a third before the post came to the visitors rescue following Ethan Robson’s arrowed shot.
The second period was more closely fought, but the lads continued to have the better chances as James Talbot was rarely troubled in goal.
The result sees Sunderland extent their lead at the top of Group C to four points, with trips to Blackburn Rovers and Burnley still to come next month.
Andy Welsh made two changes to the side that recorded a goalless stalemate at Derby County in midweek. Joel Asoro returned to the starting line-up after being in the first-team squad at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. Talbot replaced Max Stryjek between the posts for his third appearance in this season’s Premier League Cup.
Having conceded a last second goal against the Bluebirds in September, the young Cats set about making amends to that as they flew out the traps at Eppleton Colliery Welfare.
Beadling forced Jason Byrne into action inside three minutes with a rasping drive from the edge of the box before Andrew Nelson’s slipped pass was cut out by the long leg of Jordan Blaise with Robson lying in wait behind him.
Patience was key, though, Robson and Embleton orchestrated play from deep and thwarted the Bluebirds defence with slick interchanging passes from deep.
Greenwood was his energetic self on the left side and could’ve easily handed the Black Cats a deserved lead on 18 minutes when his acrobatic attempt from Asoro’s cross bounced inches wide of the far post.
Sunderland looked silky smooth in their play and continued to lay siege to Cardiff’s goal, Byrne denied Michael Ledger’s towering header before full-back Tommy Robson sent a thunderous strike whistling inches over the bar.
With 25 minutes played, Greenwood broke the deadlock following a rapid counter-attack from a Cardiff corner. Robson broke down the left flank and while his attempt was venomous drive kept out by Byrne, Greenwood was on hand to apply the finish from close range.
Four minutes later, it was 2-0.
Beadling this time the man well placed at the near post to tap home Embleton’s low free-kick at the near post.
The Black Cats were playing with their tails up and had a real swagger in their step as they could’ve been out of sight before half-time if Blaise hadn’t have hooked Greenwood’s strike off the line and Robson’s effort been a fraction to the left of the post.
Denver Hume replaced Asoro at half-time and was involved within seconds of the restart, bending a right-footed attempt over the bar after a lung-bursting run from deep.
Welsh’s side were a shadow of their well-oiled first-half selves with Cardiff seeing much more of the ball, but glimpses of quality almost paid dividends as Josh Maja’s first involvement saw him thread Robson through.
The midfielder glanced up but wildly swung across the ball and missed the target in horrible fashion as the visitors were given a slight reprieve.
While Sunderland appeared to take their foot off the gas in the second period, Maja turned on the style in the closing stages as he spun inside the box and forced Bryne to make a smart stop at his near post.
Byrne couldn’t hold Maja’s sweetly struck effort though, and Robson sliced wide from close range to wrap up all the action on a bitterly cold afternoon in Hetton.
Sunderland: Talbot, J Robson, T Robson, Beadling, Ledger, Brady, Asoro (Hume, 45), E Robson, Greenwood, Embleton (Maja, 60), Nelson (Lawson, 87)
Subs not used: Stryjek, Wright, Molyneux
Cardiff City: Byrne, Coxe, Abbruzzese, Veale (Welch, 62), Blaise (Baldwin 74), Young (Kelly, 90_, Southam, Waite, Meite, Harris, Bird
Subs not used: O’Reill, So Sani