U23 report: Connelly strikes late to earn point

Sunderland U23 1-1 Fulham U23 

Sunderland under-23s’ Premier League 2 campaign on home turf ended level tonight against 10-men Fulham. 

Jerome Opoku turned home a corner shortly after the hour mark to put the visitors in front. 

The Black Cats fought back and were handed a boost when Magnus Norman was dismissed when he came out of his box and handled the ball as Benji Kimpioka looked to stab it beyond him.

Elliott Dickman’s side were unable to take advantage of their extra man and had to wait ‘til the 90th minute for Lee Connelly to finish from close range.

Sunderland looked to hit the front from the first whistle – Jake Hackett unleashed a venomous free-kick from distance which Norman did well to hold between the Fulham posts.

Connelly and Kimpioka were nippy in their approach, slipping in behind and chasing down everything as they looked to force the issue in the opening minutes.

Fulham got to grips with the match and spurned two big chances as Jayden Harris blazed wide after Nicolas Santos-Clase toyed with defender Kane Evans. 

The visitors made the most of their pressure on 32 minutes, towering centre half Opoku lost his marker and beat stopper Max Stryjek to the ball from a corner for the simplest of close-range finishes.

Sunderland responded before the half was out but couldn’t get themselves level, Kimpioka miscued a volley as the ball seemed to take an absolute eternity to drop out of the air.

Just as the half was almost up, though, Fulham were reduced to 10 as Connelly lifted a ball over the top for Kimpioka to chase. The Swede opened his legs and pulled away from the visitors’ rear-guard, Norman dashed off his line but could only save the attacker’s effort with his hand.  

Sunderland ploughed on in the second 45, the introduction of Williams Kokolo for Kane Evans provided the lads with some pace and creativity down the left.

An in-swinging early cross from the Frenchman teased the Fulham backline before Kimpioka’s persistence and endeavour almost came to fruition only for him to be snuffed out by Opoku once again. 

But as the hosts committed men forward in search of a leveller, Fulham became increasingly dangerous on the break. Opoku was unfortunate with an acrobatic bicycle kick and then Santos and Harris were next to test Stryjek. 

To Sunderland’s credit, though, they never gave up and with just minutes left they got their reward when Connelly finished from close range.

Sunderland U23: Stryjek, Evans (Kokolo, 62), Hunter, Taylor, Bainbridge, Mumba, Connolly (Gamble, 62), Neil, Hackett, Kimpioka, Connelly
Subs: Young, Johnstone, Storey

Fulham U23: Norman (Wickens, 45), Fossey, McAvoy, Opoku, Sessegnon, Francois, De La Torre, Harris, Edun, Santos-Clase, Kait
Subs: Asare, Abraham, Hilton, Garrido

Back to top