Leicester City U23 2-3 Sunderland U23
Ethan Robson scored a sublime free-kick late on as Sunderland under-23s came from behind to beat Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
With a host of first-team players in their side, the Foxes flew out the blocks and were ahead after just 18 minutes as Bartosz Kapustka tapped home as the ball rebounded off the post.
Within minutes it was all square as George Honeyman converted a penalty beyond Daniel Iversen’s reach after being brought down.
Both sides continued to go at each other like hammer and tong, before Leicester restored their lead eight minutes into the second period through the powerful Admiral Muskwe who proved to be a real handful all night.
With 60 minutes played Honeyman slammed home to claim his second following a well-worked counter attack and then Robson stole the show with a wonder set-piece from 20-yards to win it for Sunderland at the death.
And what a strike it was.
With a busy schedule of first-team matches over the coming days, Andy Welsh was forced to reshuffle his pack as he was was without full-back Tommy Robson and forward Joel Asoro who were involved in the under-23s opening fixture against Chelsea last weekend.
Josh Robson filled in at left-back while Dan Casey provided cover on the opposite side. (E) Robson featured for the development squad for the first time this season after recovering from an injury picked up during pre-season and Max Stryjek returned between the sticks.
Leicester, on the other hand, boasted a strong starting XI which included first-team squad players Daniel Iversen, Ben Chilwell, Matty James and Gokhan Inler, and it was no surprised they started on the front foot.
A powerful run from Muskwe was cut out by Michael Ledger before a bit of magic at the other end saw Rees Greenwood feed Carl Lawson who drilled his effort inches wide of the far post.
Leicester struck back though and went in front on 18 minutes through Kapustka who poked home from close-range after Stryjek had initially tipped an effort onto the post.
But it took Sunderland just three minutes to hit back – Honeyman levelled from the penalty spot after being felled inside the area. The forward dusted himself down and dispatched his spot-kick beyond the reach of Iversen who had guessed the right way.
The hosts dominated possession and forced the young Black Cats to defend deep inside their own half for much of the opening 45 minutes, with Greenwood’s magic proving to be the visitor’s best attacking outlet.
Wave after wave of attack laid siege on Sunderland’s goal but the lads dealt with the pressure well and were resolute and well-organised as Muskwe’s miscued effort from six-yards was the Foxes only notable attempt in a fairly high-octane half.
Leicester’s physical and robust approach continued to play havoc in the second period as Sunderland struggled to really find their groove and develop any kind of pattern to their play.
Eventually the Foxes pressure took its toll as Muskwe rose well in front of Stryjek to head past the hapless stopper and restore the Foxes lead.
Josh Robson was then forced to withdraw for precautionary measures after picking up a knock and that saw Brandon Taylor enter the fray as Sunderland looked to fight back immediately.
The Foxes were more efficient in possession but Sunderland struck a deadly blow as they drew level for a second time on the hour mark. Stryjek let fly with a long punt down field towards Greenwood, who collected the ball well before setting off on a mazy run down the right wing.
The wingers pace and trickery wasn’t dealt with as he breezed past three players and into the box, a brief look up saw him spot Honeyman’s near post run and the Beekeeper was on hand to slot the ball home and level the game up.
As the game wore on Greenwood and Honeyman’s flare and creativity shone through, George Brady saw his firm header expertly saved by Iversen’s strong-right hand while Greenwood’s effort was charged down inside the area.
Josh Maja was introduced for the final 10 minutes as Welsh’s side went in search of a winner, and with 86 minutes on the clock Honeyman was brought down after a lung-bursting run through the middle.
That allowed Robson the opportunity to dispatch a wonder strike from 20-yards and he didn't disappoint as his pin-point free-kick flew into the top corner.
It was a free-kick worthy of winning any game and that’s the way it stayed as Sunderland snatched all three points right at the death.
Sunderland under-23s starting XI: Stryjek, Casey, J Robson (Taylor, 54), Ledger (Molyneux, 61), Brady, Agnew, Wright, E Robson, Lawson (Maja, 81), Honeyman, Greenwood
Unused subs: Talbot, Embleton