safc.com’s Oscar Chamberlain analyses all the action from Victoria Park as Sunderland started the second half of their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 win.
Joel Asoro and Josh Maja continued their double act with impressive outings against the National League outfit, but despite the latter opening the scoring the Lads were pegged back midway through the second-half.
But Jeremain Lens had the final say with an outstanding 25-yard free-kick, handing the Black Cats a 2-1 win at the death.
TO THE MAX
Vito Mannone’s absence in the matchday squad left Simon Grayson with a goalkeeping dilemma and the Sunderland boss opted for youth as Max Stryjek started at Victoria Park. The Polish stopper impressed during a brief cameo at the Tony Macaroni Arena against Livingstone one week ago and after working alongside Mannone and Mika throughout pre-season he earned a second chance to impress. Brendan Galloway, Jack Rodwell and Lynden Gooch were the other notable omissions from the squad as James Vaughan spearheaded the attack alongside Maja and Asoro.
A fairly drab opening 25 minutes yielded little action. Ty Browning put in an assured performance alongside Lamine Kone at the back, making a critical interception on six minutes after the ball broke in the home side’s favour. And Lee Cattermole also stood out on the ball with his tenacity and vision bossing the play. But that was about it and no real chances were created until Joel Asoro burst into life and drove at the heart of Pools defence. Electric pace saw the youngster burst past one before a sublime turn created space at the byline, but George Honeyman was unable to apply the final touch as former Black Cat Scott Harrison scrambled the ball to safety.
BOX OF TRICKS
James Vaughan continued Sunderland’s ascendancy with an acrobatic scissor-kick that whistled over the top, but Asoro remained the main threat and the home side simply couldn’t contain him. With 27 minutes Asoro charged fearlessly at the Pools backline and another former Black Cat, Louis Lang, tangled with the Swede who tumbled in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Josh Maja stepped up and delivered with a stunning finish, powering into the top corner to give Scott Loach no chance and Sunderland the lead. And they could have made it 2-0 before the interval as Vaughan was denied before striking wide, and Maja curled a free-kick inches wide.
Sunderland bossed the game in the early stages of the second period but a triple substitution on 60 minutes unsettled their rhythm – and Pools made them pay. Moments after O’Shea, Donald Love and Jeremain Lens entered the fray, the home side broke and the Black Cats were left exposed as Padraig Amond’s header forced Stryjek into a diving save. The striker clattered the post with his follow-up after the home side seized possession, but an offside flag only put a temporary end to the danger. Two minutes later the Lads were pegged back as Donaldson clipped the ball past Stryjek and into the net.
As a scrappy second period came to a close, Maja looked destined to hand Sunderland a late win as he burst through on goal and raced towards Loach, but a cynical foul from Harrison stopped the youngster in his tracks as the Lads were forced to settle for a free-kick. Lens stepped up with one minute remaining and he made it look oh so easy, curling a sumptuous 25-yard free-kick over the wall and into the top corner to ensure the Black Cats returned to winning ways.
Hartlepool United: Loach, Magnay, Laing, Harrison, Adams, Newton (Donnelly 70, Richardson 79), Hawkins, Woods, Donaldson, Oates (Munns 21), Amond.
Substitutes: Catterick, Travers, Risborough, Mondal.
Sunderland: Stryjek, Jones (Love 59), Matthews (Djilobodji 70), Browning (O’Shea 59), Kone, Gibson, Cattermole, Honeyman (Ndong 70), Maja, Asoro (Lens 59), Vaughan (Khazri 70).
Subs unused: Mika.