U23s Report: Sunderland 0-1 Colchester United

Sunderland U23 0-1 Colchester United U23

David Moyes watched from the stand as Sunderland under-23s were knocked out of the Premier League Cup by Colchester United at Eppleton CW on Friday evening.

Eoin McKeown scored the game’s only goal inside the opening nine minutes, poking the ball home after a goalmouth scramble.

Chances were aplenty for the Black Cats, with Joel Asoro and Elliot Embleton seeing the clearest sights of goal before late drama almost forced the game to extra time.

Dean Brill produced an heroic save to deny Josh Maja from the penalty spot before the striker was then denied by the offside flag a minute later.

Colchester United, though, held firm to advance to the quarter-finals of the Premier League Cup.

Rees Greenwood returned to the starting line-up as Sunderland under-23s held high hopes of advancing from the last 16 of the Premier League Cup ahead of kick-off.

While they continue to chase their first league win in 2017, Elliott Dickman’s side have enjoyed a certain cup success this term. With a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs for the winners, it was certainly hold your nerve time in preparation for the Black Cats’ European semi-final in a fortnight’s time against Norwich City.

Wind and rain made conditions particularly challenging at Eppleton Colliery Welfare, but it was the visitors who strode forward early on.

Having already defeated Manchester City in this year’s competition, Colchester showed no fear in the early exchanges, McKeown rounded James Talbot and would’ve broken the deadlock had it not been for Sam Brotherton’s last ditch tackle.

Minutes later, though, Sunderland were stunned.

The Black Cats failed to clear their lines fully from the resultant corner from Brotherton’s interception. As the second corner swung in from the right side, McKeown reacted quickest as the ball pinged about and provided a deadly touch to stab the ball into the far corner.

It was a shock lead but you would have to say the visitors fully deserved it as they continued to frustrate the Black Cats for much of the first period.

Embleton tried to muster up some magic, a neat one-two with Ethan Robson in the centre of the park had the U’s chasing shadows, but Embleton’s through ball to Joel Asoro had just too much on it.

Undeterred, though, Louis Dunne was only a good connection away from doubling the Wayne Brown’s side advantage when Brendan Ocran’s cross from the left side was whipped in on 24 minutes.

Josh Robson fired over from range for Sunderland while Greenwood’s barnstorming run from the left flank saw him upended inside the area as the Lads’ attempts to make something happen came to nothing.

Embleton, then, took centre stage for the Lads.

Two corners in as many minutes from the midfielder had Colchester United guessing, and almost saw Sunderland conjure up a response.

His first had everyone bamboozled as it come in from the left side and whizzed over everyone’s heads before his second one, from the other side, almost caught Brill out as it smacked the bar.

Brill was more assured in the 40th minute, however, getting down low to stop Luke Molyneux’s drive from 18 yards before Maja had the Lads’ final effort of the half blocked inside the area.

Dickman rallied his troops at the break and the response was impeccable.

A high press approach from the Black Cats saw them win possession much further up the field and pen Colchester deep in their own half.

Embleton warmed the gloves of Brill in the 48th minute and then Maja attempted an acrobatic bicycle kick which bounced harmlessly wide as the Lads continued to turn the screw.

But that was just the start of what proved to be an attack verses defence half of football.

Colchester United formed a two rigid lines of defence as McKeown stayed up top on his own and continued to torment George Brady and Brotherton.

Asoro glanced Greenwood’s cross from the left wide before Maja and Robson then saw two strikes in quick succession blocked away.

The visitors were being penned back by the second as Sunderland lay siege on their goal, camping themselves deep into Colchester’s half and peppering stopper Brill with strike after strike.

A moment of magic from Denver Hume saw him do the hard part by beating three players, unfortunately though his shot lacked conviction and Brill was equal to his tame effort.

But with the game seemingly over . . . late drama set up a grandstand finish at Eppleton.

Brill produced an heroic save to deny Maja from the penalty spot before the striker was then denied by the offside flag a minute later.

Colchester United, though, held firm to advance to the quarter-finals of the Premier League Cup.

Sunderland: Talbot, J Robson, Hume, Embleton, Brady, Brotherton, E Robson, Molyneux, Asoro, Maja, Greenwood

Subs not used: Casey, Stryjek, Poame, Wright, Lawson

Colchester United: Brill, Kensdale, Ocran, Harrison, Peter, Wright, Brown, Howard (Clampin, 90), McKeown (Keys, 70), Issa, Dunne (Jones, 78)

Subs not used: Phillips

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