Sunderland took care of business with ease this evening against Manchester City U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy, winning 2-0 to book their place in the final four.
Goals in each half from Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch were enough to see off a City side who have defeated a number of Football League teams in this tournament - a simple victory which guarantees Sunderland’s spot in the draw for the semi finals.
Sunderland: Robbin Ruiter, Bryan Oviedo, Alim Ozturk, Jack Baldwin, Adam Matthews, Dylan McGeouch, Lee Cattermole (c), Luke O’Nien, Chris Maguire, Benji Kimpioka, Duncan Watmore
Subs: Max Stryjek, Lynden Gooch, Tom Flanagan, Reece James, Ethan Robson, Lee Connelly, Daniel Neil
Man City U21s: Daniel Grimshaw, Nathaniel Ogbeta, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Colin Rosler (c), Jeremie Frimpong, Jose Angel Pozo, Benjamin Garre, Tommy Doyle, Tom Dele-Bashiru, Jayden Braaf, Nabil Touaizi
Subs: Adrian Bernabe, Alpha Dionkou, Tyreke Wilson, Henri Ogunby, Louie Moulden, Ben Knight, Rowan McDonald
The opening exchanges were evenly contested, with both sides having their fair share of the possession as well as the seldom sight on goal.
Sunderland youngster Benji Kimpioka could’ve had a great chance when Duncan Watmore picked the pocket of the full-back he was chasing and fed the ball through to him, but Benji’s marker warded him off and forced him back out the box.
City looked the more comfortable of the two sides as the first half progressed, causing the likes of Adam Matthews and Dylan McGeouch to work particularly hard in order to deal with the offensives coming down the right flank.
When the deadlock was broken, it was to be advantage Sunderland. Some excellent build up play from Bryan Oviedo and McGeouch resulted in a scuffed shot from the latter falling into the path of Kimpioka, who then managed to direct the ball into the wake of an unmarked Watmore, who ensured the ball finally found the back of the net.
Very nearly did the Lads have their second not too long after. Watmore was brought down on the edge of the box to earn his side a free-kick which was taken by Oviedo - only for the Costa Rican to thunder his effort off the bar and back out into open play. Chris Maguire did well to salvage a rebound but the shot he fired from outside the box landed squarely in the grasp of ‘keeper Daniel Grimshaw.
Sunderland had evidently gained a noticeable amount of momentum and composure following their goal as they seemed to contain their opposition a lot better and put together attacking moves which asked more questions of the City back line.
There wouldn’t be anymore goals to speak of in the first forty-five though, and so the two sides went into the break. The Lads were a goal to the good.
HT: Sunderland 1-0 Man City U21s (Watmore 22’)
Neither side had any substantial opportunities early on in the second half. Sunderland seldom saw themselves with a clear sight on goal, while Man City didn’t apply much pressure to a back line that frequently put together haphazard strings of passes.
Luke O’Nien might’ve (finally) got his side a second goal in emphatic style when Watmore held off his marker on the edge of the box before allowing the midfielder to charge onto the teed-up ball and drive it goalward - but in the end the effort was well wide of the mark.
Thankfully, Sunderland did manage to double their advantage - courtesy of substitute Lynden Gooch, who found the bottom left corner from the far right edge of the penalty box to ensure we went 2-0 up via an excellent, incisive finish.
So nearly did we then see a third only moments later, with O’Nien in amongst it again with a low shot which Grimshaw just managed to flounder away.
The City heads didn’t drop despite their deficit increasing, and this showed with a relentless stream of forward passes that would’ve found their last man one-on-one with Ruiter, were it not for an superbly timed sliding tackle from Alim Ozturk inside the box to halt the striker in his tracks.
It seemed as though O’Nien and Kimpioka had done everything but score; the two were the focal point of yet another attack when the latter cut into the box before lashing an effort which was blocked by Grimshaw, only for the former’s follow-up to be parried again by the ‘keeper.
Sunderland kept the pressure on right until the last kick when Lee Connelly’s shot was deflected wide. The Lads would have to settle for only winning by two goals this evening - thankfully, this was more than enough to ensure they were now only one win from Wembley!
FT: Sunderland 2-0 Man City U21s (Watmore 22’, Gooch 65’)
Robbin Ruiter, 6/10: Hardly had anything to do, which I suppose is a testament to the resilience of our defence.
Bryan Oviedo, 7/10: Deliveries were consistently effective, as were his general defensive duties. A good all-round full-back’s performance.
Alim Ozturk, 8/10: Excellent. Won everything that came his away and made what I’m sure will be a tremendously underrated sliding tackle to stop the opposition pulling a goal back.
Jack Baldwin, 6/10: Decent, but played a few dodgy passes to and from his adjacent teammates.
Adam Matthews, 7/10: Struggled with his marker somewhat in the first half but generally dealt with the pace of the attacks coming down his side well.
Dylan McGeouch, 7/10: Neat, tidy and accurate passes all night from him, once again.
Lee Cattermole, 4/10: Really struggled to keep up with the sheer energy and athleticism of City’s young lads. Looked likely to get himself sent off if he didn’t get subbed.
Luke O’Nien, 7/10: Gave the visitors all sorts to think about and could’ve easily got one or two goals of his own on another day.
Chris Maguire, 6/10: Alright. One of the quieter performers this evening.
Benji Kimpioka, 7/10: Did an excellent job of winning the ball from the City centre-backs and subsequently marauding toward goal. Much like O’Nien, he is very unlucky to not be on the scoresheet.
Duncan Watmore, 7/10: His first touch was once again frustrating but his pace and hold-up play were crucial components in many of our attacking movements. Netted a lovely finish, too.
(SUB) Lynden Gooch, 7/10: Netted a lovely finish. Would like to see him timing those shots better more often.
(SUB) Ethan Robson, 6/10: Kept things ticking over. Didn’t really get the time to make a substantial impact.
(SUB) Lee Connelly, 6/10: Was only on for a few minutes. Got a shot away which was goalbound if it wasn’t blocked.
Man of the Match: The Wizard of Ozturk.
Attendance: 14,679 (96 Man City fans)