SUNDERLAND exited the Barclays Under-21 Premier League Cup in a dramatic penalty shoot-out tonight.
Hosts Derby County edged through 4-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the round of 16 tie at St George’s Park in Burton.
Sunderland began the game on the front foot, with Carl Lawson and Martin Smith going close inside the opening 25 minutes.
Mikael Mandron’s shot was then well-saved by Derby keeper Jonathan Mitchell.
Mandron headed just wide early in the second half, before Lawson’s shot across goal came back off the far post.
In the dying stages of normal time, skipper Liam Agnew came closest for Sunderland when he fired narrowly over the top from the edge of the area.
Sunderland hit the woodwork for the second occasion four minutes into extra-time when George Honeyman’s long-range volley clipped the top of the bar.
But the Black Cats needed to be alert to Derby snatching it at the other end, with stopper Joel Dixon – back from a loan spell at non-league Boston United – keeping out a low effort from Ivan Calero Ruiz.
Neither side could find a breakthrough before the game went to penalties.
Mandron missed Sunderland’s opener, but keeper Dixon saved Mason Bennett’s first penalty for Derby. The sides then swapped successful spot-kicks as Agnew and Shaquille McDonald both netted.
Sub Ethan Robson blasted his effort against the bar, giving Derby the chance to go ahead for the first time, with Rhys Sharpe coming up trumps, sending Dixon the wrong way.
Martin Smith struck Sunderland’s fourth penalty, but Ivan Calero soon restored the Rams’ advantage.
Tom Beadling got the visitgors back to 3-3 with their final spot-kick, but Derby clinched victory when Alefe Santos beat Dixon.
DERBY: Mitchell, Hendrie, Rawson, Hanson, Lowe (Sharpe 120), Koblenz, Guy, Santos, Bunjaku (Bennett 58), Calero, Thomas (McDonald 109). Subs not used: Barnes, Vernam.
SUNDERLAND: Dixon, Cartwright, T Robson, Agnew, McNamee, Beadling, Greenwood, Smith, Mandron, Honeyman (E Robson 120), Lawson (Nelson 101). Subs not used: Sukar, Burke, Ledger.