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Finlay’s Report: Should Sunderland be concerned by their lack of goals during tour of Portugal?

Sunderland failed to score in either of their two games in Portugal and, as RR’s junior reporter Finlay Anderson is keen to stress, it could be a concern going into the new season if we don’t see an improvement on Saturday night’s performance against Belenenses.

Belenenses v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland ended their pre-season tour of Portugal with a 1-0 defeat against Portuguese side Belenenses on Saturday night.

One goal from Diogo Calila in the second half sealed the win for Belenenses, while for Sunderland, they left without scoring a goal in either of our games or tour in the Algarve.


The Team...

Jack Ross stuck with the same 3-4-3 formation that played against Benfica B on Thursday night, but made seven changes to that team. Jon McLaughlin replaced Lee Burge in goal, while Jordan Willis kept his place in defence. Conor McLaughlin switched from an attacking wing-back to a central defender for this game, while Tom Flanagan was given a run out. Also, after confirming a new contract last Tuesday, youngster Elliot Embleton started in an attack featuring Will Grigg and Duncan Watmore.

Belenenses v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

First Half: Sunderland Miss Big Opportunities

One of the best chances of the entire game came early on for the Black Cats when Duncan Watmore ran through on goal and into the penalty area, but he dragged his shot agonisingly wide of the right post. This was his second chance missed in two games for the Sunderland forward.

The 25-year old was involved in another Sunderland attack when he flicked the ball backwards to Will Grigg inside the penalty area, who then squared it across goal from a few yards out - but, unluckily for the Wearsiders, no one was waiting in the empty space.

After 25 minutes both teams were given a drinks break due to temperatures in Portugal peaking at 28 degrees - and moments after that short break, Embleton forced former Sunderland goalkeeper, Mika, into making an easy save.

Belenenses’ first real opening came just before half time when Matija’s shot was saved easily by Jon McLaughlin, who was rooted to his goal line.

Belenenses v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Second Half: No Reply From SAFC After Calila Goal

There were no changes for Sunderland at half time, while Belenenses made three of their own substitutions, with Mika - their goalkeeper - making way.

Elliot Embleton almost gave Sunderland the lead early on in the second half, when Watmore - who was involved yet again - cut the ball back to the youngster on the byline, but his shot was parried away by the goalkeeper.

Sunderland - and Jordan Willis especially - had their hearts in their mouths when Nico Velez’s shot, after a huge defensive mistake by the Black Cats, took a huge deflection off Willis but flew just wide of the left post.

Then, in the 57th minute, Belenenses took the lead. The ball was carved through the Sunderland defence with Denver Hume unable to clear, to Diogo Calila. He dribbled the ball into the penalty area, and slid it under the legs of Jon McLaughlin and into the back of the net.

After that, Sunderland made three changes, which was shortly followed by four as Watmore, Willis, Grigg, Embleton, Leadbitter, Hume and McGeouch were taken off in order for Kimpioka, Wyke, Ozturk, Maguire, Power, Gooch and Sammut to come on.

Luke O’Nien picked up one of the first yellows of the match late on, but immediately after, he was subbed alongside Conor McLaughlin for Jack Diamond and Jack Baldwin.

The new additions to the game couldn’t find an equaliser for the Black Cats as the match ended Belenenses 1-0 Sunderland AFC.

Belenenses v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Finlay’s Verdict...

Sunderland started in a similar way to how they did against Benfica B on Thursday night; in a positive way with a number of good opportunities. Watmore was one of the standout players in the match and he was at the heart of the early attacks. Personally, I thought that in the first half, Belenenses were kept fairly quiet by the Black Cats.

From the start of the second half it became apparent that the Portuguese side had more of an attacking flare, and when they took the lead they kept firm control of it.

In both of the two matches on the Portugal tour, something that I have noticed was Benfica B’s and Belenenses’ intention to play the ball in behind. Most of the time this worked for them, but they couldn’t find the all important scoring touch, where for the goal, Calila did exactly that. This is something that Jack Ross will have to address ahead of the beginning of the new season in just under two weeks time.

Another slight concern is that we’ve only scored two goals in three pre-season friendlies so far this summer. Those both came against South Shields in the opening and probably the most easiest friendly that we had.

Is this something for the Sunderland fans to be worried about? Both of these goals came from non-attacking players in Ethan Robson and Luke O’Nien, so it’s slightly unnerving that the likes of Will Grigg and Charlie Wyke aren’t getting on the score sheet.

There’s a familiar feel about it all - towards the end of last season, our goals dropped off and ultimately we failed to gain automatic promotion. Can Jack Ross find a resolution? I guess we’ll have to wait and see how we look when Heerenveen roll into town next Saturday night.