Sunderland U23s 2-0 Hertha Berlin
Sunderland defeated German side Hertha Berlin this evening 2-0 in the U23s Premier League International Cup, with a first half Paddy McNair header and a late Tom Beadling penalty deciding the tie in a game that did little to warm the cockles on a cold October night.
Plenty of first teamers played, with Duncan Watmore adding another forty-five minutes to his meter as he bids to return to full fitness.
Here’s how the match went, and how the lads rated.
Sunderland lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Jack Rodwell partnering Tom Beadling in the centre of defence, Paddy McNair in holding midfield and Duncan Watmore up front.
The opening stages of the game were fairly lively, with Sunderland’s first chance falling to Duncan Watmore - he saw his shot deflected away from goal, sparing Berlin some early heartache.
The gameplan from the off was very much for Sunderland to play early balls in behind for the former Altrincham forward, and a wasted chance by Luke Molyneux to put Watmore in on goal was perhaps the best spurned opportunity of the opening twenty minutes from either side.
Berlin’s first real chance of the game came on 27 minutes, as Shawn Kauter lost Adam Bale and found himself through one on one with James Talbot - but, with the goal gaping, the Hertha midfielder lost his footing and his tame effort was comfortably deflected wide by the Sunderland goalkeeper and away from danger.
Soon after, Duncan Watmore saw a penalty claim waved away having been dragged back when through on goal - the away side can count themselves lucky that they weren’t penalised for the foul by the referee, who had a very stern stance all evening when it came to his decision-making.
Sunderland’s spell of pressure earned them their first goal of the evening, and it was a well-earned one after a bit of fortunate play led to Paddy McNair heading over their keeper to put his side ahead.
After controlling a ball from wide superbly, Duncan Watmore saw his shot saved and the rebound fell to the Northern Ireland midfielder, who looped his header over the Hertha keeper and into the net.
The mackems continued their dominance as they saw out the rest of the half, and went in at the break deservedly ahead.
Half time: Sunderland U23s 1-0 Hertha Berlin
Sunderland made three changes at the start of the second period, with Duncan Watmore, Paddy McNair and Ethan Robson making way for Owen Gamble, Jack Diamond and Andy Nelson.
And, even despite the changes, the home side remained in control. Adam Bale and Jack Diamond in particular were good on the ball, whilst Luke Molyneux constantly looked a threat down the right hand side.
Berlin rarely looked to get forward and attack, making the job for Sunderland’s defence very easy.
The rest of the half was played out in a fairly calm fashion, and it wasn’t until the last ten minutes that the German side looked to have a go. Sending their two centre halves up front, Sunderland had plenty of long balls to deal with as Berlin looked to find a way back in to the game.
But, it came to nothing and Sunderland ran out comfortable winners.
Late in the game the eventual victors won a penalty after Jack Diamond was brought down in the box, which was duly converted by Tom Beadling.
Despite creating very little, we were easily the better side and deserved the victory.
Full time: Sunderland U23s 2-0 Hertha Berlin
James Talbot - 6/10: Had a quiet game as Hertha rarely looked to take control.
Brendan Galloway - 6/10: Like Talbot had little to do but what he did do, he did fairly well.
Jack Rodwell - 6/10: Assured. Was nice to hear him be so vocal, keeping Galloway in check. But, as an experienced player you’d expect him to breeze through a game like this.
Tom Beadling - 6/10: Partnered Rodwell well without having all that much to cope with. Took his penalty well.
Donald Love - 5/10: Thought he looked a bit naff, to be honest. There was a chance for him to play Watmore in behind in the first half and instead of releasing it, he just awkwardly toe-punted it out for a goal kick ten seconds later.
Luke Molyneux - 6/10: Always looked to create and get at his man but the end product was lacking slightly.
Adam Bale - 9/10: Fantastic. Marshalled the centre of the park well and won every tackle.
Ethan Robson - 6/10: Solid, if unspectacular.
Paddy McNair - 7/10: Looked very calm on the ball and took his goal well. He’ll be pleased to be back.
Rees Greenwood - 5/10: Offered very little. Been a while since I saw him have a good game.
Duncan Watmore - 7/10: Ran the channels well and caused the Hertha defence issues in the first period. Should hopefully feature again at the weekend.
(SUB) Owen Gamble - 6/10: Got stuck in and worked hard.
(SUB) Jack Diamond - 7/10: Very tricky and aggressive in his approach. Like the look of him.
(SUB) Andy Nelson - 6/10: Didn’t have a great deal of chances to score goals.
Man of the Match: Adam Bale. Very impressive; nice to see a player at this level not scared to put a tackle in and show aggression.