Sunderland U23s took on Tottenham Hotspur U23s this evening in their season opener at Eppleton Colliery Welfare, with former Everton left-back Bryan Oviedo making his first appearance of the season following his recovery from an injury sustain whilst on international duty.
Oviedo picked up a hamstring problem back in April which kept him out of the final run towards the end of the season, and then upon his recovery from that issue he suffered a leg injury which saw him sent home from the Gold Cup by Costa Rica.
Senior Goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter made the starting line up, along with first teamers Lynden Gooch, Jack Rodwell, Papy Djilobodji and Donald Love in a strong looking Sunderland side.
Sunderland XI: Robin Ruiter, Donald Love, Bryan Oviedo, Elliot Embleton, Thomas Beadling (c), Papi Djilobodji, Andrew Nelson, Ethan Robson, Lynden Gooch, Jack Rodwell, Jack Diamond.
Subs: Michael Ledger, Max Stryjek, Luke Molyeneux, Denver Hume, Adam Bale.
Tottenham XI: Brandon Austin, Timothy Eyoma, Jaden Brown, Oliver Skipp, Christian Maghoma, Japhet Tanganga, Shilow Tracey, Joe Pritchard (c), Kazaiah Sterling, Dylan Duncan, Will Miller.
Subs: Marcus Edwards, Luke O'Reilly, Ryan Loft, Keanan Bennetts, Samuel Shashoua
Sunderland started the game with Jack Rodwell playing as a number ten behind Lynden Gooch, who led the line for Elliot Dickman’s side.
A pretty uneventful first 20 minutes saw Spurs have the first real chance of the game, which forced central defender Tom Beadling into a goal-saving tackle.
It was Gooch who provided Sunderland's first meaningful opportunity on 21 minutes with a superb solo effort. The American beat three Tottenham defenders in the box before firing a shot at straight Spurs 'keeper Austin - a great bit of play by the United States international.
With ten minutes left to run in the first half, Spurs took the lead through Kazaiah Sterling after some sloppy defensive play from Sunderland afforded the Spurs man with a golden opportunity, which he dispatched with ease past Robbin Ruiter.
Sunderland ended the first half strong. Jack Rodwell burst forward to allow Gooch a chance to slip the ball through to Diamond, but the American dithered and the attack was ended quickly.
However, further hapless defending from Papy Djilobodji almost gifted Spurs their second. The former Chelsea defender sold Ruiter short with a terrible back pass, but was spared of his blushes after some indecisive play from Spurs led to the move breaking down.
Half Time: Sunderland U23s 0-1 Spurs U23s (Kazaiah Sterling, 34)
There was one change for Sunderland at half-time as Lyndon Gooch came off for Luke Molyeneux, pushing Andrew Nelson into the central striking position.
Spurs started the second-half much like the first, tidy in possession.
Much like the first half, the second was typically uneventful at the beginning - but, not wanting to divert from his usual antics, Papy Djilobodji was off the boil. Had it not been for the bar, the Senegal international would have afforded Spurs another simple opportunity as he was out-jumped with ease, leading to the ball striking the woodwork.
Andrew Nelson was lively throughout the second period after moving up front and had a number of half-chances, causing the Spurs back line considerable discomfort.
And it was just after the hour mark when Jack Rodwell and Bryan Oviedo were withdrawn - neither man gave a glittering performance but it was the minutes under the belt that was most important, with both players striving towards full fitness after spells out through injury.
Upon the departure of the two senior squad members it gave Sunderland some impetus, and it wasn’t long before they were back level.
With the ball loose in midfield, Ethan Robson intercepted it quickly and marauded through the centre of the Spurs defence, blasting home past the 'keeper to level the scores with 20 minutes to play - a good, powerful finish.
With the match even both teams ramped up their efforts to get a foothold in the game and the pace was upped considerably - for the first time in the evening there was an edge to the play and both sets of players were putting everything into every tackle.
And then came the clincher for the Mackems - Denver Hume won it for Sunderland with a minute to play, smashing a superb strike from just outside of the box in to the bottom corner of the net. It was brilliant play from the left back, who celebrated signing a new contact with the club this week by scoring the winner.
Full Time: Sunderland U23s (E Robson, Hume) 2-1 Spurs U23s (Sterling)
Robin Ruiter, 6/10 - Didn't really have much to do and was tidy as usual, not helped by Papy Djilobodji's defensive limitations. Pulled off two good saves at the end to preserve Sunderland's win.
Donald Love, 6/10 - Solid performance for Don Love. He didn't do anything flashy, kept things simple and worked hard.
Bryan Oviedo, 5/10 - Poor before being substituted on the 62 minute mark. Needs more game time to resume full fitness, nearly cost Sunderland a couple of goals and generally looked off the pace.
Elliot Embleton, 6/10 - Tidy in possession.
Thomas Beadling, 7/10 - Tidy on the ball in the first-half, looked more assured than his central defensive partner.
Papi Djilobodji, 3/10 - A performance to forget for the Senegalese defender. He almost gave away a penalty in the second half and looked generally unsure on the ball.
Andrew Nelson, 7/10 - Much better when moved into the middle following Gooch's withdrawal.
Ethan Robson, 8/10 - Neat and tidy display from Robson today, passed the ball well and helped to break up the play. A great interception and burst forward to slot in a powerful finishes shows that this lad has a bit of quality.
Lynden Gooch, 7/10 - Industrious performance from Gooch in the first-half playing as the central striker. The forward exhibited some good touches and worked his way into some good goal scoring positions. Needs to improve on his finishing.
Jack Rodwell, 6 /10 - Flattered to deceive for the most part. Showed his passing ability in flashes but is clearly working his way back to full fitness. Rodwell should be dominating games like this, we didn't see that tonight.
Jack Diamond, 7/10 - Carried the ball well all night and looked very energetic. Still has a lot to learn but the winger didn't look out of place having been fast tracked to the U23s team for this season. A good, solid performance from the youngster.
Adam Bale, 5/10 - Did nothing of note.
Luke Molyeneux, 5/10 - See Adam Bale.
Denver Hume, 7/10 - Sunderland's match winner managed to get forward far more successfully than Oviedo in an impressive substitute performance.
Man of the Match: Ethan Robson - Took his goal well, got stuck in and just generally impressed. Will be pleased, having shone in front of the onlooking Grayson.