Sunderland U23s defeated Athletic Bilbao U23s 2-0 in a feisty encounter at the Stadium of Light yesterday evening, with goals from Ethan Robson and Elliot Embleton securing the victory for Elliott Dickman's side.
The lads didn't have it all their own way, however, as Bilbao dominated the early exchanges - just a minute into the game Hernández fired over from six yards out, as the home side struggled to get a foothold in the game. In truth, the tie was ridiculously scrappy for much of the first half, with both sides looking sloppy in possession.
Having soaked up plenty of pressure Sunderland took the lead on 25 minutes through Ethan Robson, who stabbed home from close range as a result of Joel Asoro's parried effort.
Perhaps the defining moment of the match came on half time, as Max Stryjek made a superb reflex save to turn a goal-bound effort round the post.
Not long into the second half Sunderland doubled their lead with a precise effort from Elliot Embleton - the strike didn't have much power behind it but it crept into the far corner to make the score 2-0.
Things got even better for Sunderland when the visitors were reduced to ten men after Cordoba was given a straight red for an off the ball incident. This gave the young black cats confidence and they played out the rest of the match with a real swagger - they regularly carved open Bilbao and only some wasteful finishing ensured the scoreline wasn't greater.
Despite a slow start the youngsters played with great confidence throughout, which bodes well for the future.
Max Stryjek - 8: Looked a bit shaky early on but produced a vital save to preserve the lads' half time lead.
Josh Robson - 7: Capable in both defence and attack.
Tommy Robson - 7: Made some good runs going forward and fulfilled his defensive duties well.
Tom Beadling - 7: Was very involved in the game throughout and didn't put put foot wrong.
Michael Ledger - 7: After a fairly shaky start for the Sunderland defence he recovered well and coped with Bilbao's pressure well.
Dan Casey - 7: See Ledger.
Luke Molyneux - 7: Showed a good range of passing and always looked to make things happen.
Ethan Robson - 8: Scored the opener and was impressive throughout.
Elliot Embleton - 7: lovely strike from range to wrap up the victory.
Rees Greenwood - 6: Flattered to decieve for much of the game. But improved as it went on.
Joel Asoro - 6: Did a lot of good things, made some good runs and his pace was a threat all night but his decision making and finishing let him down.
Devener Hume (sub) - 6: little time to impact the game.
Dan Wright (sub) - 6: See Hume.
Jean-Yves Poame (sub) - 5: Don't think that he touched the ball!