Sunderland U23 2-0 Athletic Club
Sunderland produced a scintillating performance to defeat 10-man Athletic Club and cruise into the semi-finals of the Premier League International Cup on Wednesday evening.
The visitors began the evening brightly, Iker Hernandez mustered a number of openings as the Spanish club looked to force an early issue.
Sunderland’s patient approach paid off though, Ethan Robson stabbed home on 25 minutes following Joel Asoro’s parried strike.
But there was work still to be done as Max Stryjek whirled into action on the stroke of half-time to deny a venomous strike from Peru Nolaskoain.
Two minutes after the restart Elliot Embleton doubled the Black Cats’ lead from range before Athletic’s night turned from bad to worse when Ingo Córdoba was dismissed for a straight red.
From there the Black Cats closed the match out and booked their place in the semi-finals of the International Cup for the first time.
Well done, Lads!
Sunderland advanced to the knockout stages as undefeated Group A winners following impressive scalps over Benfica and PSV Eindhoven on Wearside.
A fine two-goal comeback at Derby County secured the Lads’ place in the last eight of the competition and set-up a tie with Group F runners-up Athletic Club.
Like the Black Cats, Athletic triumphed in Group F undefeated and progressed to the nail end of the competition with two wins from three games.
And with that record in mind, the stage was set for a fine evening of European football at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats spent a large spell of the opening period penned deep into their own half, Hernandez had the best chance as he acrobatically fired over from six yards after Stryjek failed to hold a header from a corner.
Shape and discipline was key for Elliott Dickman’s team, though, as they waited patiently in their rigid formation, happy for the Spanish side to control proceedings.
And the Lads’ patience almost paid off with 13 minutes on the clock, Robson produced a defence-splitting pass to Tom Beadling for him to break clear down the right side.
Without a second’s though Robson followed his pass, the ball then deflected out to him on the edge of the box before an intelligent touch worked a yard of space for him to have a strike at goal.
Hernandez continued to cause problems up top for Sunderland, this time the striker ghosted in behind, brought the ball down on his chest well before a quick swivel and strike forced Stryjek to bat the thunderous effort away.
But that missed proved to be a costly one for Athletic as moments later Robson pounced to devastating effect inside the area.
Unai Etxeberria could only parry Asoro’s drilled attempt into the path of the on rushing Robson who was on hand to stab the ball over the line and give the lads the all-important advantage.
Athletic hit back, though, and Nolaskoain would’ve equalised on the stroke of half-time had it not been for the out-stretched arm of Stryjek.
Sunderland flew out the traps following the restart, Asoro floated in behind but hit the towering frame of Etxeberria as he bored down on goal.
A minute later, it was 2-0.
Embleton bobbled an effort from 25-yards out towards goals, and while the midfielder’s strike didn’t have much power behind it there was enough to see it nestle in the corner.
Athletic were rocked and shortly after their night turned from bad to worse as they were reduced to 10 - Córdoba was shown a red card for a coming together in front of the East Stand.
That only added to the confidence which was oozing from the veins of Sunderland, Rees Greenwood came into his own as he drove at Athletic’s weary defence before Robson was denied a second by the foot of the post.
Sunderland continued to press forward in search of a third, but most importantly Dickman’s troops held firm at the back to advance to the last four of the International Cup.
Sunderland: Stryjek, J Robson, T Robson, Casey, Ledger, E Robson, T Beadling (Wright, 81), Molyneux (Poame, 93), Asoro (Hume, 81), Greenwood, Embleton
Subs not used: Brotherton, Talbot, Gamble, Taylor
Athletic Club: Etxeberria, Murua, López, Nuñez, Bernaola (Seguin, 55), Undabarrena, Guruzeta, Zarraga, Iker Hernández (Iñigo Vicente, 72), Nolaskoain (Dulce 64), Córdoba (sent off, 52)
Subs not used: Murgoitio, Iruarrizaga, Cortazar