Sunderland under-23s produced a masterclass display to move top of the Premier League 2 and end Everton’s unbeaten start to the season at Goodison Park on Tuesday.
The young Black Cats were under the cosh for large spells as Everton’s Kieran Dowell sent number of efforts fizzing towards Sunderland’s goal early on.
Max Stryjek proved tough to beat in goal while Rees Greenwood and George Honeyman saw efforts blocked at the other end in an action packed opening half.
Everton controlled the general flow of the second period but Sunderland again made themselves tough to break down as they patiently waited for their moment to pounce.
A flurry of chances from Ethan Robson and Greenwood saw the lads’ sense blood, and with 71 minutes on the clock George Brady came up from the back to head Sunderland into a narrow lead.
From there on Everton laid siege on Sunderland’s goal and while Michael Ledger was dismissed for a second bookable offence in the closing stages, Sunderland hung onto clinch a hard fought three points.
Both teams went into the fixture undefeated in the Premier League 2, Everton boasted a 100% record of five straight wins in all competitions and sat two points clear of the young Black Cats at the top of the league.
So to counter Everton’s threat, Andy Welsh named three central defenders in his starting XI with Tom Beadling recalled to make his first appearance of the campaign after recovering from injury.
Meanwhile, David Unsworth fielded an equally strong starting line-up which included first-team players Mason Holgate and Joel Robles to help the league-leaders get off to a flying start.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s turn of pace gave full-back Josh Robson something to think about in the opening stages while Dowell’s set-piece delivers caused some concern to Stryjek as he was tested on numerous occasions.
Sunderland steadied the ship and worked their way into the fixture, Tommy Robson skipped past two opponents, fed Greenwood who picked out Josh Maja in the box only for his touch evaded him at the last moment.
Sparks of creativity from Elliot Embleton and Greenwood shone through as the Black Cats looked to draw first blood but the Toffee’s hit back on the half-hour mark when Dowell sent a rasping drive whistling past Stryjek’s post.
Moments later Calvert-Lewin tried his luck from range but Ethan Robson put in a bullish challenge on the edge of the box to clear the danger away.
The young Black Cats continued to work tirelessly, Embleton tested Robles’ resolve from 20 yards while Greenwood continued to torment Everton’s backline with his persistent energy across the pitch, and that helped the lads see the game out till half time.
Sunderland continued to frustrate the hosts after the midway interval, Robson and Beadling proved to be tough cookies to crack in the centre of the park for the Toffees.
However, when the chances came for Everton Stryjek stood tall between the sticks as he denied Calvert-Lewin from close range.
Efforts from Embleton and Honeyman kept the Toffees on their toes defensively as they looked to pile bodies forward in an attempt to snatch a winner.
While the game began to filter into a scrappy affair, that suited Sunderland as they grew in confidence and started to peg the hosts back.
A lung-bursting run from Greenwood saw him receive the ball a moment too late to cause any real change before Robson’s piledriver was tipped over from Robles.
Despite Everton’s controlled pressure throughout the game, the young Black Cats sneaked in front on 71 minutes as Beadling’s floated free-kick was headed home by Brady.
From there on it was one way traffic as Everton camped themselves in Sunderland’s half, desperately in search of a goal.
Sambou went close with an effort at the near post before Ledger was dismissed in the closing stages. Sunderland hung onto clinch a seismic victory and leapfrog Everton in the Premier League 2.
Sunderland under-23s starting XI: Stryjek, J Robson, T Robson, Beadling (Wright, 79), Brady, Ledger (red card, 92), Embleton (Lawson, 84), E Robson, Honeyman, Greenwood, Maja (Nelson, 58)
Unused subs: Pain, Casey
Everton under-23s starting XI: Robles, Kenny, Robinson, Davies, Connollym Holgate, Charsley (Henen,68), Walsh, Dyson (Sambou, 78), Calvert-Lewin, Dowell
Unused subs: Hewelt, Jones, Evans