Sunderland U18 1-1 Aston Villa U18
Sunderland came from behind to earn a point in their U18 Premier League Cup group C opener against Aston Villa at the Academy of Light.
Indiana Vassilev’s second-half strike put the Villans in front before Cole Kiernan levelled things up for the hosts with just over five minutes remaining to ensure the spoils were shared.
The Black Cats began their U18 Premier League Cup campaign in a cautious manner, and with the visitors reluctant to push men forward early on it took 16 minutes for the first opportunity to arrive as Ryan Leonard curled into the arms of goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo from 20 yards.
The Villans threatened on the counter-attack however and striker Tyriek Wright made sure to remind the hosts why moments later as he beat the defensive line but saw his strike well blocked by goalkeeper Adam Cameron.
The best chance of the half followed shortly after for the Black Cats, with Connor Slack’s pace down the right-wing allowing him to cross into the centre for the unmarked Kiernan who headed inches over the bar from 12 yards.
Kiernan was keen to make up for his missed opportunity as soon as possible and came close to doing just that swiftly afterwards, latching on to Sonny Best’s through ball before his near-post strike was parried wide by Sinisalo.
Villa could well have stolen the lead on the stroke of half-time but for Cameron’s sharp reflexes, as he raced off his line to block Wright’s point-blank effort after the forward found himself through on goal.
The second period took an almost identical shape for the first 15 minutes of the half, although this time it was the visitors who tested the opposing ‘keeper first as Vassilev’s 25-yard volley stung the palms of Cameron.
It would be Vassilev who broke the deadlock for Villa with 15 minutes to go, as the midfielder played a one-two with Jacob Ramsey on the edge of the box before sliding the ball under Cameron to put his side ahead.
A barrage of chances followed in the final 10 minutes with Kiernan left wondering how he didn’t find the net with a header similar to his first half chance, moments before substitute Colin Odutayo struck the post for the visitors.
With just over five minutes to go however it proved to be third time lucky for Kiernan, who headed Kane Evans’ pinpoint cross into the far corner to equalise and ensure Sunderland had something to show for their efforts.
Sunderland: Cameron, Howard, Edmundsson, Evans (c), Ord, Neil, Scothern, Slack (Compper, 86’), Leonard, Best, Kiernan.
Subs: Derbali, Bond, Miller, Smith.