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Finlay’s Report: Despite disappointing Maja saga, Sunderland have a cup semi to look forward to!

Chin up, Josh Maja fans, it’s not all doom and gloom - Sunderland are just one game from a cup final at Wembley!

Sunderland AFC

With only 180 minutes between Sunderland and a Wembley final, the Black Cats didn’t let Manchester City’s youngsters get the better of them as they dispatched of their opposition routinely with a 2-0 victory, sending Jack Ross’ side through to the semi-finals of the Checkatrade Trophy.

Duncan Watmore scored his first goal since before his two big long-term injuries that left him out of match action for the past two years.

Then, in the second half, American winger Lynden Gooch doubled Sunderland’s advantage with a superb effort on his left foot.

Jack Ross made a number of changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park on Saturday. Three players kept their places from that match, with Lee Cattermole cementing his place in the centre of midfield, while Luke O’Nien was positioned in a more attacking position with Chris Maguire playing out on the wing.

Benji Kimpioka started up top, with Duncan Watmore also in the starting 11.

Sunderland AFC

Just like the Manchester City first team, their young compatriots dominated possession by playing a slick, sharp passing game which, as anyone who has watched City play in recent years knows, Pep loves all of his teams to play right throughout the club.

And it was easy to see how our opponents had progressed this far in the competition - they were pacy, creative and technically very good, dominating possession of the ball for most of the opening twenty minutes of the tie.

That said, Sunderland remained patient and found the break through in the 22nd minute when Dylan McGeouch’s shot was deflected into the path of Duncan Watmore, who from inside the penalty area fired the ball into the bottom left corner with a near finish.

Watmore, as you can imagine, was both delighted and relieved to have scored his first goal since returning from his most recent knee injury.

Sunderland AFC

The hosts had a fantastic chance to double their lead when Bryan Oviedo’s free kick from just over 20 yards battered the crossbar and the rebound from Chris Maguire was an easy stop for Grimshaw in the City goal.

In the second half, Jack Ross decided to take off Duncan Watmore and bring on attacking midfielder, Lynden Gooch. Gooch made an immediate impact when he curled the ball into the bottom right corner to double Sunderland’s lead and put the tie to bed.

I thought it was Alim Ozturk’s best performance of the season as he shone alongside Jack Baldwin, looking head and shoulders above his inexperienced opposition as he breezed through the game and defended astutely. Aside from the former Hearts skipper, the continually impressive Luke O’Nien yet again did well playing in a role further up the field.

We now have a week and a half break before we face AFC Wimbledon at the Stadium of Light on the 2nd February. The transfer window will be shut before the match, so hopefully with Maja now looking like he is going to leave we can bring some new faces into the squad.