Sunderland U23s X-X Legia Warsaw U23s
Sunderland managed to scrape a point against Legia Warsaw this evening at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground, drawing 1-1 following Andrew Nelson’s late leveller.
It was a poor display in truth, and the home side can count their draw as a pleasing result.
Sunderland lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Tom Beadling captaining the side and teenage starlet Jack Diamond playing in the hole being lone-striker Joel Asoro, fresh back from his international duty with the Sweden U21s side.
Like most U23s games the opening exchanges were frantic, with neither side really able to gain a foothold in the game.
Bar a few half chances from Luke Molyneux and Joel Asoro that were comfortably saved by Jakub Szumski in the Legia goal, Sunderland barely threatened their opposition throughout the half - and they were soon punished for their indecisiveness.
Just after the 30 minute mark, some poor positioning by Owen Gamble led to the ball eventually finding Robert Bartczak on the right side of the Sunderland penalty area, and the Poland U20 international finished well to put his side ahead.
Legia then began to apply further pressure, but Sunderland rode through it and managed to go into half time just a goal behind - despite Joel Asoro finding himself in a couple of good positions with half chances that were easily collected by the Warsaw stopper.
Half Time: Sunderland U23s 1-0 Legia Warsaw U23s
Sunderland started the second period with a far greater intensity than when they ended the first and, with a bit of luck they would have gone level - but Rees Greenwood could only shoot wide after some good work on the break by Jack Diamond.
But, after their initial burst of energy, Sunderland’s tempo slowed considerably, with the lack of a physical presence up top and penetration through the midfield causing most attacks to break down before they had even started.
Joel Asoro - who, in truth, had a poor game and looked uninterested on what was a cold evening in Durham - was replaced in the 65th minute by Andrew Nelson, back for the evening from his loan away with Conference North side Harrogate Town.
Nelson immediately improved the Sunderland forward line as the midfield now had someone to hit, and the athletic forward came close to scoring within minutes of entering the field.
Then, with minutes left to play, Sunderland managed to draw level.
A superb pass from the right was converted by Nelson, who really changed the game when he came on.
What followed was a frantic five minutes where both sides came close to winning it, but in the end it was a draw - and Sunderland should be happy with the result having played so poorly for the most part.
Full Time: Sunderland U23s 1-1 Legia Warsaw U23s
James Talbot, 6/10: Couldn’t have done much really about their goal. Good save near the end to keep us in it.
Owen Gamble, 6/10: Tried to offer support going forward.
Tom Beadling, 6/10: Solid enough, as per usual.
Brandon Taylor, 6/10: Same as Beadling - did enough.
Denver Hume, 6/10: Thought he had a canny game but wasn’t well supported by Greenwood in front of him.
Adam Bale, 5/10: Wasteful at times but worked hard.
Ethan Robson, 5/10: Too quiet, too safe. Needs to be more adventurous in possession sometimes.
Luke Molyneux, 6/10: Not as threatening as usual but he worked hard. Headed a good chance wide near the end.
Jack Diamond, 6/10: Looked good when we broke at pace but flitted in and out of the game too much.
Rees Greenwood, 4/10: Another game where he wasn’t able to impact himself on it.
Joel Asoro, 3/10: Sorry for rating him this low, but he was incredibly poor. Didn’t really look interested and I’m yet to see him play well this season. Maybe training every day with the first team is having an adverse effect!
(SUB) Andrew Nelson, 7/10: We looked much better with him up top and he took his goal well.
(SUB) Benji Kimpioka, 6/10: Looked a real handful when he came on.
(SUB) Lee Connelly, 5/10: Barely touched the ball.
Man of the Match: Andrew Nelson.