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Sunderland U23s 2-0 Leicester U23s: Young lads run out winners on Kone’s return; Player Ratings & Report

Sunderland’s U23s faced off against their Leicester City counterparts and ran out comfortable winners despite the pressure from their opposition. Here’s how it went, and how the lads rated.

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Match Action

Elliot Dickman named the fully recovered Lamine Kone as the only non-youth player for the lads in tonights U23s fixture.

The game got off to a rather uneventful start, with neither side making much of anything for the first ten minutes. Sunderland saw their first sight on goal on the eleven-minute mark as Denver Hume made a promising run down the left-wing before finding Elliot Embleton, but the midfielder skied his effort way over.

Former Poland U19s stopper Max Stryjek was called into action for the first time shortly after as he smothered a bullet header from a Leicester corner.

The visitors were putting together the most attacking movements in the opening stages of the first half, but neither side looked particularly threatening during this time.

Things soon picked up, though. Lee Connelly’s cross was almost cleared straight into the path of Benji Kimpioka with only a few yards separating him and the Leicester goalmouth; unfortunately, the young Swede timed his run slightly too soon and missed the ball as it sailed past him.

There was another scare only moments later - this time at our end. Stryjek tripped as he went to take a goal-kick and nearly left the ball at the feet of Foxes’ striker Josh Eppiah, but luckily the ‘keeper gathered himself just in time to avert any disaster.

Sunderland broke the deadlock on thirty-six minutes through Connelly. Stryjek produced a great save to cut out Josh Gordon’s cross before hoofing the ball upfield to Connelly, who raced toward the box before finding the net with a thumper of an effort.

And the lads wouldn’t have to wait any longer than seven minutes to double their advantage.

Owen Gamble did well to win the ball and weave it through to Connelly who in turn squared it to Embleton in yards of space; allowing the midfielder to cap off a great Sunderland move with a lovely curling shot into the far left corner.

Leicester ramped up the pressure in the second half and the visitors saw more than their fair share of the chances.

George Thomas sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal and Robson did well to get out of the way in order to avoid a potential deflection into his own net. Darnell Johnson came close not too long after, as he made his way into the six-yard box before flashing another delivery across the goalmouth - but any danger was hoofed away.

Trialist Touray even hit the post with one of his efforts; the visitors just couldn’t find a way back into the game.

Sunderland had a chance to nab their third as Gamble slipped in Kimpioka who peddled his way through an opening in the Leicester defence, but as the defenders caught up with him he squared a weak pass to the advancing Jack Diamond who couldn’t make anything out of what he was given.

Connelly had the lads’ best chance of the closing interval as normal time came to an end. He latched onto the end of a long ball, beat the offside trap and lifted his effort over the head of ‘keeper Daniel Iversen, but the end product bounced just wide of the far post.

Young Connelly would just have to settle for the one goal this afternoon, as his side saw out the second half to earn both a win and a clean sheet.

Player Ratings

Max Stryjek - 8/10: Made plenty of good saves throughout the match - especially in the second when Leicester started to look more threatening.

Josh Robson - 7/10: Got forward, defended well; no complaints here.

Denver Hume - 7/10: Same as above.

Owen Gamble - 7/10: Did well to start the attacking movement which led to the second goal and was generally solid otherwise.

Brandon Taylor - 6/10: Not a standout performer but decent nonetheless.

Lamine Kone - 8/10: Dealt with everything with relative ease. He was, quite literally, head and shoulders above the opposition today.

Jack Diamond - 7/10: Always looked industrious.

Elliot Embleton - 8/10: Looked a threat every time he was on the ball and scored an absolute pearler - if Ethan Robson could possibly become a first-team regular, I don’t see why Embleton can’t either.

Lee Connelly - 8/10: Pressed the Leicester ‘keeper and back line all afternoon, and was rewarded with a fine finish for his efforts.

Benji Kimpioka - 6/10: Got himself about but didn’t really have too much to show for it.

Jake Hackett - 6/10: Same as above.

(SUB) Alex Storey - 7/10: Kept up the good work as Kone lumbered off.

(SUB) Chris Allan - 6/10: Wasn’t too involved.

(SUB) Williams Kokolo - 5/10: Didn’t have enough time to make a real impact.

Man of the Match: Elliot Embleton

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