Youngsters prevail on penalties.
Sunderland U18 1 Aston Villa U18 1 (AET)
Sunderland win 4-2 on penalties
Sunderland under-18’s won a dramatic penalty shootout to progress to the semi-finals of the Barclays U18 Premier League at the expense of Aston Villa.
Martin Smith scored the young Black Cats’ final spot-kick as both sides were reduced to ten men with Jas Sukar seeing red for the hosts after Brad Lewis had earlier been dismissed for a professional foul on James Stinson.
Villa went ahead after just two minutes as Jerell Sellars found space on the edge of the area to drive home before Liam Agnew equalised from 35 yards for Sunderland.
And, after the cruel blow of an early goal, the hosts lost centre-half Tom Beadling to injury with schoolboy Ethan Robson coming on as his replacement.
Jack Grealish then went close for the hosts only to be thwarted by a fine low save from Peter Burke in the Black Cats’ goal.
The hosts were level just after the half-hour as a Sunderland corner fell to Agnew who crisply struck a right-footed shot through a number of bodies before it nestled into the bottom corner.
Villa looked to get back into the game through their main man Grealish, but barring a 20-yard strike which was saved by Burke, he was kept quiet by the impressive Black Cats back line.
The visitors were reduced to ten men on the hour as Stinson broke in behind from Tom Robson’s long ball only to be felled by last man Lewis on the edge of the area, leaving the referee with no chance but to produce a straight red card.
George Honeyman placed the resulting free-kick wide but the hosts failed to conjure up many clear-cut chances despite their dominance.
Sellars and Grealish both saw efforts flash wide as Villa showed exactly why they were crowned champions of the NextGen series this campaign.
Sunderland held out to see the game into extra time, however, they couldn’t have wished for a worse start to the first period of extra time as Sukar was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Agnew, who has played more under-18 games than any other Sunderland player this season, went close to nicking it in extra-time for the hosts, though his 30-yard curler was well saved by Bradley Watkins.
The young Black Cats had to be brave in the dying stages as Agnew, Steven McCarthy and Burke all came up with superb goal-line blocks as the Villans bombarded the Sunderland goal.
Neither side could find a winner so the chance to play Fulham in the semi-finals was to be decided by a penalty shoot-out.
Agnew scored Sunderland’s first before Villa missed their opening spot-kick. Carl Lawson was the next Black Cats player to be successful before Villa scored again.
Honeyman then missed his spot-kick only for Sellars to blast his penalty over; Robson then scored for Sunderland before Liam Bateman coolly slotted his kick home for Villa.
Smith stepped up knowing his spot-kick would send his team through and he made no mistake, sending Watkins the wrong way.
Sunderland now travel to Elite Group winners Fulham on Wednesday.
Sunderland: Burke, Ledger, Sukar, Agnew, Beadling (E Robson, 5), McNamee, Honeyman, Smith, Stinson (Lawson, 100), Cartwright (McCarthy, 75), T Robson.