Sunderland 0-1 Heerenveen
Sunderland lost their final pre-season game 1-0 to Heerenveen on Saturday evening at the Stadium of Light thanks to a stunning goal from Hitcham Faik.
After a quiet opening 45, the game sprouted into life during the second and saw both teams went close on numerous occasions.
The goal came on 68 minutes and there was nothing any player in red and white could do about it as Faik let fly from 30 yards and saw his effort fly past Jon McLaughlin and into the top corner.
While the result was not ideal for Jack Ross, the performance and fitness levels would have pleased him.
Heerenveen started the brighter of the two sides and had the first two opportunities of the game.
These came after some great skill from Jordy Bruijn on the left side, he teed up Ben Rienstra who fired in a shot from distance that was bravely blocked by Jordan Willis with his head.
Three minutes later, Heerenveen went close again as Rodney Kongolo lashed an effort from 25 yards just past the bottom of McLaughlin’s right post.
Sunderland began to impose themselves on the game and were very nearly rewarded in the 14th minute.
Conor McLaughlin made an opening with some great work down the right side and he gave the ball to Lynden Gooch who put in a tantalising ball that was cleared by the Heerenveen defender.
The resulting corner caused carnage in the visitor’s box as Grant Leadbitter’s ball caused all sorts of problems. It was McLaughlin who nearly scored twice as his first effort was cleared off the line and his second was well saved by Warner Hahn in the Heerenveen goal.
Both sides struggled to create openings, but the Dutch side had the next half chance on 35 minutes as Kongolo got presented with an opportunity at goal after good work down the right, his effort was tame and comfortably saved by the Sunderland keeper.
The Black Cats began to build some momentum before the break, and the lively Benji Kimpioka hit a stinging effort from 30 yards that the Heerenveen stopper struggled to hold.
We entered the break goalless, with both sides looking comfortable in possession but neither looked like scoring unless it was from a set piece.
Sunderland were unchanged at half time and they almost immediately took the lead on 47 minutes after some great work between Kimpioka and Denver Hume led to Lynden Gooch firing an effort wide from inside the penalty area.
Moments later, some excellent pressure by Sunderland’s front three saw Kimpioka steal the ball from the Heerenveen defender and feed the on-rushing Grant Leadbitter who fired a shot from 20-yards towards the bottom right corner, but Hahn got down and saved it wonderfully.
The Dutch outfit nearly got themselves ahead on 54 minutes as Daniel Hoegh headed an effort wide off the post from close range when he really should have done better.
The hosts continued to push for a goal and were nearly rewarded on 63 minutes as Elliot Embleton put a teasing ball across goal which eventually landed at the feet of substitute McNulty who saw his effort blocked with the goal gaping.
Finally, on 68 minutes the deadlock was broken, and it was the visitors with the goal. Defender Faik fired a stunning effort from 30 yards into the top right corner leaving McLaughlin the Sunderland goal no chance – even the home support applauded the goal because of the quality of the strike.
Heerenveen nearly doubled their lead minutes later as Odgaard turned his defender beautifully before firing a powerful effort just wide of McLaughlin’s left post.
The introduction of Dobson was the spark Sunderland needed and his play led to Will Grigg getting his best chance of the match on 77 minutes. He was fed down the right side of the penalty area and he fired his effort just past the keeper and into the side netting.
The Lads nearly got the goal that their play deserved as a free kick on the right wing was whipped in by Embleton and evaded everyone, ricocheting off the post and then cleared by the Heerenveen defence.
That was the closest Sunderland came, and the game finished 1-0 to Heerenveen.
Sunderland: J.McLaughlin, C.McLaughlin, Hume, Willis, Flanagan, Leadbitter © (Dobson 75), Kimpioka (McNulty 54), McGeouch (Power 82), Grigg, Embleton, Gooch (O’Nien 67)
Subs: Ozturk, Burge, O’Nien, Baldwin, Power, McNulty, Dobson
Heerenveen: Hahn, Floranus, Hoegh (Skovgaard 58), Woudenberg, Falk, Odgaard, van Bergan, Bruijn (Van der Heide 52), Dresevic (Botman 45), Kongolo (Ajujobi 79)
Subs: Skovgaard, Botman, Frederiksen, Bednarek, Doornbusch, Van der Heide, Hajal, Ajujobi, Ras