Sunderland U23s must embrace stadium pressure in Premier League International Cup final – Joel Asoro

Sunderland AFC U23's Joel Asoro visits Marsden Primary School to promote the Premier League International Cup Final.
Sunderland AFC U23's Joel Asoro visits Marsden Primary School to promote the Premier League International Cup Final.
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Sunderland Under-23s will tonight be roared on by 20,000 fans against Porto – but it won’t daunt Joel Asoro as he looks to repeat his semi-final heroics.

Elliott Dickman’s side secured their place in the Premier League International Cup final thanks to Asoro’s early strike against Norwich City – to become the first Under-23 team in the club’s history to reach a European final.

And livewire forward Asoro has called on his teammates to embrace the pressure in front of a huge crowd at the Stadium of Light (KO 7pm).

“Everybody is buzzing and happy to be in the final. It is not every day a Sunderland team gets to a final so it is big for us,” said the 18-year-old striker.

“We are all ready for the game; we just need to play how we have done before, like in the semi-final win over Norwich City.

“We are not scared of anything. We just have to embrace the pressure.

“When I scored the goal against Norwich I wasn’t thinking too much about it, I was just trying to score another or provide an assist for a teammate.

“But when I saw there was only one minute left I started thinking about it, it was a nice feeling and helped boost my confidence.

“I always love to play against big teams. I feel like it will be a really big game and you have to raise your game to be ready for the challenge.

“I try and be calm and not really think about it too much though because things can change – but I do hopefully look forward to lifting the cup!”

Sunderland’s second string are used to playing in front of much smaller crowds at Eppleton Colliery Welfare, in Hetton.

Asoro, an Under-21 international for Sweden, has thanked the Sunderland fans for their support ahead of the game, with thousands snapping up the free tickets.

“There will probably be around 20,000 there which is great and we thank everyone for their support,” said Asoro, who has made four first team appearances this season.

“It will be one of the biggest crowds I have played in front of but I have played for Sweden Under-21s against Spain in front of a large crowd before.

“There was probably about 25,000 people watching that game. That was a great experience and it will be similar to that.”

Dickman’s side could be bolstered by George Honeyman – should he shake off a back injury suffered in training – Lynden Gooch and Donald Love.

Asoro added: “It is always good to have the more experienced players in the team, the likes of Donald Love etc.

“They help us during the game and bring a good spirit to the team.”

Fans wishing to attend must collect their free ticket from the ticket office at Black Cat House, which will be open until 5pm tonight (Wednesday).

After that, South Stand turnstiles will be open for fans wishing to attend the match without a ticket.