Asoro’s reminder, Lens the enigma and Khazri the magician: What we learned from Livingston 0-3 Sunderland

Asoro scored on first pre-season appearance
Asoro scored on first pre-season appearance
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A routine victory for Sunderland at the Tony Macaroni arena as pre-season continues.

We take a look at six of the key talking points ...

A timely reminder from Asoro

Joel Asoro’s participation in the U21 European Championships delayed his pre-season and gave Josh Maja a chance to shine.

Maja was impressive again here, showing his strength and poise, but Asoro will have been thrilled to offer a swift reminder of his talents.

His pace brought a different dimension to the game and certainly allowed Jeremain Lens the space to be more influential in a new look front three.

His goal, while a simple finish, was well taken and owed to good reactions in the six-yard box.

The 18-year-old is still raw and prone to make poor decisions on the ball, but in a squad still short of pace offers something different and welcome.

Khazri elevates a poor game again

If the Hibs draw had been a feisty and surprisingly competitive occasion, this was a far more typical pre-season encounter.

The quality was low, the tempo pedestrian. Fortunately for the travelling support, Wahbi Khazri was again a joy to watch as he roamed from the left flank.

Aside from his well-taken goal, the Tunisian took every opportunity to show off his attacking instincts and there was a champagne moment as he spun away from a bemused Livingston midfielder on his own byline.

Khazri’s future remains in doubt, but his invention is something to be treasured at the moment.

Set-pieces sill a struggle

It had been a major frustration for both fans and manager David Moyes last year that Sunderland were so ineffective when it came to attacking set-pieces.

Khazri did score from a corner against West Ham United but in pre-season so far the Black Cats have not really posed much of a threat.

The second goal may have come from a Lens free-kick, but the Livingston goalkeeper truly dropped a howler.

Most were wasted throughout the game, cleared at the front post or easily collected at the back, and it is still an area where big strides can be made.

Grayson gets a defensive improvement

Some poor goals conceded in the first two pre-season games were a concern for Simon Grayson.

He will have been pleased with what he saw at the Tony Macaroni arena, even if the quality of the opposition’s attacking play was questionable.

What Sunderland did have to deal with was regular high balls from deep, with Papy Djilobodji again looking an assured presence alongside John O’Shea.

Brendan Galloway in particular was targeted by Raffaele de Vita but stood up well and impressed with his composure in possession.

A back four of Jones, O’Shea, Djilobodji and Galloway may well be Grayson’s season starting line-up, and they looked in control here.

Rodwell lacking conviction in front of goal

Getting goals from midfield will be a key priority for Simon Grayson next season and Rodwell has so far been the man asked to push on from midfield.

There have been some encouraging signs, the 26-year-old showing a willingness to press and commit himself to counter-attacks, but a lack of conviction in front of goal remains.

He created a fine chance for himself when he stole the ball and broke free shortly after half-time, but it was a comfortable save for Neil Alexander in the Livingston goal.

Lens as enigmatic as ever

The Dutchman is a player of oustanding quality, but in what feels like a slightly surreal farewell pre-season tour, it has been delivered in spurts rather than consistent spells.

The strike to score the third here was astonishing in the ferocity and precision on display.

His goal at Hibernian was a fine finish, too, but otherwise Lens has been erratic in his use of possession.

Someone in Europe will soon be signing a fine talent, but an unreliable one.

The nonchalant way he wandered to the half-way line after scoring such a spectacular goal summed up an enigmatic character.