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Finlay’s Report: Sunderland finish goalless - were there positives to take from the performance?

Sunderland weren’t able to find the back of the net last night against Benfica B, but Roker Report’s junior scribe Finlay Anderson still feels that there were positives to take from the performance.

Sunderland AFC

Sunderland began their pre-season tour of Portugal with a 0-0 draw against Benfica B at the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira.

The Black Cats had arguably the best and most chances of the game, in where no team was able to find the golden goalscoring touch.

The Team...

In Sunderland’s second pre-season friendly before the League One season commences Jack Ross experimented yet again by playing three at the back.

Jack Baldwin, Alim Ozturk and Jordan Willis all started in defence for the Black Cats. Also, Lee Burge started in goal ahead of Jon McLaughlin.

Both Charlie Wyke and Will Grigg partnered up top with Chris Maguire sitting close behind. 4 of the 11 that started in Portugal also played in the League One play-off final between Charlton at the end of May at Wembley.

Sunderland AFC

First Half: Tender opening 45 for Black Cats

Sunderland started off the match well at the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira, but Benfica B had the first big opportunity of the game when Rodrigo Conceicao was slid through on goal - but his effort was kept out by Lee Burge.

Soon after, Chris Maguire almost scored a wonder strike from the halfway line, as he anticipated that he would be able to lob the Benfica goalkeeper, Diogo Garrido. The ball flew over the goalkeeper but it was just over the bar, much to the delight of their players.

Charlie Wyke had an opportunity shortly after. A through ball was arrowed to him but it was caught under his feet, and when he was finally able to pull the trigger his low effort was saved at the hands of Diogo Garrido.

Surprisingly, Alim Ozturk was one of the next to come closest to putting Sunderland into a one-goal lead. After an unsuccessful free-kick, Baldwin chipped the ball back to him, as he was waiting for it in the penalty area. Ozturk then attempted to power the ball into the back of the net, but his diving header travelled just over the bar.

Yet again Rodrigo Conceicao was instrumental in the Benfica attacks. He took a weak effort at goal towards the end of the first half, but it was easy work for Lee Burge in the Sunderland goal.

Sunderland AFC

Second Half: SAFC fail to find a winner

There were a number of changes at half time, with Glenn Loovens, Luke O’Nien, Ruben Sammut and Benji Kimpioka all coming on in the place of Jordan Willis, Conor McLaughlin, Grant Leadbitter and Will Grigg.

For the second time in the match, Alim Ozturk had a chance to give Sunderland a one-goal cushion when his venomous strike from an estimated 30 yards out was millimetres wide of the left post.

Both sides made plenty of changes throughout the second 45, and Sunderland made their final five substitutions all at once as Dylan McGeouch, Duncan Watmore, Elliot Embleton, Tom Flanagan and Denver Hume came into the frame.

Arguably the best chance of the match came late on in the match and fell at the feet of Duncan Watmore. He was brilliantly threaded through on goal by Embleton, and he was face-to-face with the Benfica goalkeeper, Diogo Garrido. He attempted to chip the goalkeeper, which he managed to do successfully, but the ball struck the crossbar. The rebound fell for Ruben Sammut, whose shot was stopped on the line.

Sunderland or Benfica B weren’t able to find a winner in the time that remained, so the match ended all square and goalless.

Sunderland AFC

Finlay’s Verdict

Jack Ross picked a very strong side for this pre-season friendly in Portugal. It might be that we see this side - with a few tweaks - start our League One opener against Oxford United in just over two weeks time.

Personally, I thought that we looked sloppy in patches at the start of the game, but I suppose that’s what you expect from pre-season friendlies.

For the fans that were watching both at the stadium and back home there were some positives to take from the match.

In the first half we showed some great signs of attacking intent, but we weren’t able to find a reward, though that first 45 minutes did afford Will Grigg with some much-needed minutes on the pitch as he bids to hit the ground running this season.

Benji Kimpioka may be a key player this season with the lack of strikers, and when he came on I thought that he moved himself into fantastic positions but just couldn’t find the scoring touch.

Hopefully, in our final game of the Portugal tour on Saturday, we can see more from Sunderland’s players as they get some much-needed additional playing time.

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