Sunderland 3-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Sunderland restored some pride and provided a glimpse into future on Sunday, as a young starting XI blew away Sky Bet Championship champions Wolves.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were second best in every department and they fell behind on 19 minutes, as Ovie Ejaria tucked home a simple finish after Luke Molyneux was denied.
Ashley Fletcher’s fine finish double the Lads’ lead on the stroke of half-time, with Paddy McNair grabbing a third after the hour mark as the champions struggled to find momentum.
Denver Hume became the second debutant of the day soon after, and 16-year-old Bali Mumba followed in his footsteps with ten minutes remaining as John O’Shea left the pitch to a standing ovation – and he even gave the youngster the captain’s armband.
The season is now over, but Sunderland will be back.
Kazenga LuaLua had been in line to make his first start for the club, but the forward dropped out of the squad following the pre-match warm-ups as Molyneux stepped in to make his debut. Fellow academy graduates Ethan Robson and Joel Asoro were also included in the starting XI, as Denver Hume, Elliot Embleton and Bali Mumba were named on the bench. Former Black Cat Alfred N’Diaye was named on the bench by the visitors.
Sunderland endured a shaky opening as Robson and Bryan Oviedo were both caught in possession, but they settled as the game ticked towards the ten-minute mark and Wolves were forced to defend. Asoro offered the biggest threat as he combined with Fletcher and Molyneux, but the debutant scuffed his attempt before the Swede’s driven effort cannoned off a defender. Ejaria, who engineered that earlier opening, was next to go close, but his venomous strike was palmed behind.
Ahead of the game, Stockdale stated that any player to pull on the shirt would give their all – and that proved to be the case as the Lads continued to pile forward. Next, Ejaria combined well with McNair but Asoro flicked the ball wide, and the Swede continued to menace as he breezed past Barry Douglas before teeing up McNair whose attempt was blocked. Wolves were riding their luck but with 19 minutes played it ran out, as Ejaria tapped home a simple finish after Will Norris spilled Molyneux’s initial effort. It was no less than Sunderland deserved.
The Lads continued to be utterly dominate as Wolves failed to find a response after falling behind. McNair saw further attempts blocked before Oviedo dragged a shot wide, but the half-time whistle came too late for the visitors who found themselves 2-0 down at the break. Robson supplied the pass and Fletcher did the rest, beating Danny Batth and Norris to the ball before lobbing the ball over the ‘keeper and into the empty net. Wolves burst out of the blocks following the restart, but Sunderland weathered the early storm and remained in control.
After soaking up moderate pressure, Sunderland almost snatched a third with 63 minutes played. A blistering counter attack started by Molyneux saw Ejaria round the keeper, but after doing tremendously well to stay on his feet, the midfielder was denied. It mattered little, though, because they found a third two minutes later, as McNair danced his way through the Wolves defence before side-footing an assured finish beyond Norris.
Hume received rousing ovation soon after as the young defender came on to make his debut, and Embleton was given a similar reception as he came off the bench to make his home bow. Ejaria continued to give the Wolves backline a headache as he teased substitute goalkeeper Harry Burgoyne off his line, but the on-loan Liverpool man was crowded out as he looked to apply the finishing touch. Mumba replaced O’Shea in the closing stages, as the 16-year-old captained the Lads to victory.
Sunderland: Steele, O’Shea, Wilson, Oviedo (Hume 70), Matthews, McNair (Embleton 75), Robson, Ejaria, Asoro, LuaLua, Fletcher.
Subs not used: Camp, Maja, Clarke-Salter, Mumba, McManaman.
Wolves: Norris (Burgoyne 70), Doherty, Douglas, Neves, Batth, Coady, Costa (Enobakhare 56), Silva, Gibbs-White (Bonatini 56), Miranda, Saiss.
Subs not used: N’Diaye, Afobe, Vinagre, Hause.