"It was a tough game but the players didn't give in; they didn't hide."
Kevin Ball felt the game at Manchester City was a good learning curve for his side as he reflected on a defeat in the north west.
Sunderland's U21s suffered a 6-2 reverse at the Etihad Stadium on Friday evening against an expensively-assembled City oufit.
Mikael Mandron scored for Sunderland, who also saw City man Oliver Ntcham net an own goal.
“It was a very tough game – we were up against the best U21 side we've faced this season,” Ball said afterwards.
“They have spent a lot of money on their group and been involved in Europe.
“We were disappointed with some of the goals – some were self-inflicted due to individual errors of judgement.
“We put ourselves on the back foot very early in the game, but we were very young and I appreciated the fact it would be tough.”
Having found themselves 3-0 down early on, Sunderland trailed 4-1 at the break but Ball praised his players' reaction to a half-time chat.
“To give the players credit they rallied in the second half,” he explained.
“If we analyse the whole game, Manchester City deserved to win – some of their football was outstanding.
“From our point of view it was a good lesson for the players – they know what they have to reach to remain in the game at a high level.
“It was a tough game but the players didn't give in; they didn't hide. It was a good learning curve for us.”