SUNDERLAND Under-21’s are still looking for their first win in their qualifying group after a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of FA Youth Cup semi-finalists Chelsea at the Academy of Light.
Despite the hosts stepping up thyeir game in the second period, Chelsea had enough composure to take the sting out of the game and make sure of the points.
Sunderland included Jordan Laidler and Mikael Mandron, who were both on the bench for the first team game at Stamford Bridge while Billy Knott made a return appearance before continuing his loan spell at Woking.
Ryan Noble had chances for Sunderland but was too high with one and fired the other straight at Chelsea keeper Jamal Blackman before the visitors broke to take the lead in the 23rd minute.
A great long diagonal pass from the impressive John Swift found Connor Hunte out on the left and the winger cut in to drive through Sunderland keeper Joel Dickson into the far corner of the net.
The rest of the half was largely confined to midfield but Kevin Ball’s side rallied to improve in the second half with the wind at their backs.
Noble sidefooted straight at the keeper and then Scott Harrison headed powerfully over from Adam Mitchell’s corner.
Knott and Laidler were getting to grips with midfield and the defence looked more solid but there was still no end product to several good build-ups.
The Londoners gradually regained their composure to impose themselves on the game and it wasn’t until the final minute that Mandron headed over from the hosts’ only real chance in the later stages.
Coach Kevin Ball said: “Despite the cold and wind, I thought it was a really good game. I was delighted with the second half – I think we deserved something from the game.”
Sunderland: Dixon, Marrs, Ferguson, Laidler, Harrison, McNamee, Mitchell (Holland 75), Knott, Noble, Mandron, Smith. Subs not used: Robson E, Wilson, Agnew, Beadling.