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Arsenal U23s 2-0 SAFC U23s: Maja’s return spoiled by defeat - Match Report & Player Ratings

Despite possessing the returning Josh Maja in their ranks, Sunderland U23s lost this evening in convincing fashion to a strong Arsenal side. Here’s how the game went, and how the lads rated.

Josh Maja returned - but Sunderland lost again

Arsenal U23s 2-0 Sunderland U23s

Goals from Chuba Akpom and Vlad Dragomir condemned Sunderland to a comprehensive defeat at the Emirates, with the home side running out 2-0 victors.

Despite getting in level at half-time, Sunderland were second best against Arsenal’s under 23s who coasted to victory after their early second half goal.

Luke Molyneux missed Sunderland’s golden chance at 1-0 to level the contest, but Akpom punished Sunderland minutes later with a coolly taken second.

Elliott Dickman’s side are now without a league win since the opening day of the season and, like the senior side, find themselves right near the bottom of the table at such an early stage of the season.

Sunderland Starting XI: Talbot, Hume, Beadling, Taylor, Gamble, Embleton, McNair, Greenwood, Diamond, Asoro, Maja. Subs: Woud, Story, Molyneux, Nelson, Bale.

Match Action

First Half

Arsenal dominated possession early on, with the Black Cats struggling to stay level. A mix of crisper passing and relentless pressing left the Lads struggling to escape their own half in the first 20 minutes.

But then, the Mackems nearly broke the deadlock against the run of play. Joel Asoro’s first time strike was blocked and sent just over the bar - the Swedish youngster narrowly missing under pressure from a clever cutback.

For all Arsenal’s dominance they created few clear cut chances. James Talbot raced off his line to deny Eddie Nketiah, who’d ran beyond the Sunderland defence. Talbot was also called into action again moments later, clearing at the second time of asking after fumbling a close range Chuba Akpom shot.

Mathieu Debuchy had an early goal chalked off - the ex-Newcastle man powered his diving header beyond James Talbot from the penalty spot. The whistle had already gone, however, for pushing away from the ball.

Whilst both sides struggled to create clear openings as the half wore on, Sunderland were fortunately let off 30 minutes in. Jordi Osei Tutu ghosted into the Black Cats area but flashed the ball across goal to no one, wasting a fantastic opportunity for the Gunners.

As the half wore on Arsenal continued to find success down Sunderland’s left. Tutu played a great one-two with first-team regular Francis Coquelin to get in behind, but the youngster’s shot was weak and was fired straight at Talbot, who held comfortably.

Half Time: Arsenal U23s 0-0 Sunderland U23s

Live from the Press Box

Second Half

Arsenal upped their intensity and intent after the break, threatening almost immediately through Chuba Akpom - the former England U21s striker blasted over from the edge of the area, being left free to shoot after Tom Beadling could only head straight to him.

Minutes later Arsenal were ahead, cutting Sunderland open less than five minutes after the break.

Akpom ran at the Black Cats’ back four before slipping in Vlad Dragomir - the 18-year old cut onto his left foot and then curled into the top corner, beyond the out-stretched Talbot.

Arsenal continued to press for a second, playing with extra confidence after Dragomir’s opener. A long range Josh Da Silva strike was just deflected wide on the hour mark.

The away side survived further pressure from the Gunners as Akpom headed over from close range. The 22 year old was unable to get over the ball, heading a yard over inside the Sunderland six yard box.

Sunderland’s best moment of the game came when substitute Luke Molyneux shot from distance, but his 25 yard effort grazed the crossbar and flew just over, sparing Arsenal’s blushes having dominated for much of the second period.

Then, after a brief period of decent attacking play, Sunderland’s one real chance for salvation came with 15 minutes left - Joel Asoro released Molyneux, who was one on one with Deyan Iliev, but he shot tamely at full stretch, wasting a golden opportunity.

Arsenal struck the killer blow and got the crucial second with Akpom finally getting his goal after terrorising the Mackem’s back line all evening. He slotted coolly past the on-rushing Talbot, who couldn’t close the angle quickly enough.

Sunderland pressed and harried throughout the last 15, but couldn’t hurt a talented Arsenal side, in a frustrating evening in London. They created now further chances, being comfortably beaten.

Full Time: Arsenal U23s 2-0 Sunderland U23s (Attendance: 1813)

Player Ratings

James Talbot, 6/10: Looked shaky in the first half, but did well to keep the scoreline respectable in the second.

Denver Hume, 5/10: Struggled with the Arsenal movement at times, but it was a tough night for every Mackem defender.

Tom Beadling, 7/10: Did well as Sunderland’s last line of defence, kept the score down with some great last ditch defending.

Brandon Taylor, 5/10: Struggled with Akpom’s movement - a learning curve for the youngster.

Owen Gamble, 5/10: Had a tough time trying to contain Arsenal’s attackers.

Elliot Embleton, 6/10: Was unable to match an impressive first half, but showed glimpses of his quality on the ball.

Paddy McNair, 5/10: Had a quiet night. Struggled against a lively Arsenal midfield.

Rees Greenwood, 5/10: Didn’t really threaten Arsenal’s back four.

Jack Diamond, 5/10: Tough evening for the teenager, forced to chase shadows against a good footballing side.

Joel Asoro, 7/10: Showed glimpses of his obvious quality - Sunderland’s most lively attacker.

Josh Maja, 5/10: Looked short on match fitness. Struggled to impact the game.

(SUB) Adam Bale, 5/10: Struggled when he came on.

(SUB) Luke Molyneux, 5/10: Managed one great effort but missed our best chance of the game when it was 1-0 to Arsenal.

Man of the Match: Tom Beadling. He showcased excellent last-ditch defending to keep the score respectable.

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