Sunderland U23s 1 Liverpool U23s 4 - January target Ben Woodburn scores as Black Cats suffer home defeat
January loan target Ben Woodburn scored a stunning goal in Liverpool's 4-1 win over Sunderland Under-23s at the Stadium of Light.
The stadium has proved an unhappy home for the first team over the past year and a second half defensive collapse cost Elliott Dickman's side dear.
Chris Coleman was at the Stadium of Light, Woodburn catching the eye in Liverpool's win.
The Reds took an early lead through Cameron Brannagan's fifth minute penalty but Sunderland fought back and equalised via the head of Joel Asoro.
Three goals in the space of eight second half minutes left Liverpool with a comfortable victory in the end though, Woodburn's 25-yard effort the pick of the bunch.
The 18-year-old Wales international is on Coleman's radar as he looks to strengthen next month.
There was some encouraging news for Sunderland, Josh Maja played 89 minutes as he steps up his comeback from a knee injury.
The Sunday lunchtime fixture had similarities with the first team 24-hours earlier.
The Under-23s, also second bottom of their division, taking on league leaders Liverpool.
Unlike the first team at Championship leaders Wolves, the Under-23 defence was breached within five minutes of the Premier League 2 fixture.
Ethan Robson bundled over Harry Wilson and Cameron Brannagan confidently smashed the ball past Mika.
Sunderland, playing a back five, went close to drawing level minutes later, Maja's low effort deflected past the post for a corner.
Elliot Embleton, who made his debut for the first team as a sub against Wolves, produced a perfectly weighted pass for right-back Josh Robson 20 minutes in but his effort poor.
Further clear chances for either side were few and far between on a bitterly cold December day, with Matthew Virtue blazing an effort wide for the visitors.
Maja was on the end of a crunching tackle midway through the first half but was okay to carry on, though at times he was too isolated up front.
Woodburn produced a moment of magic 40 minutes in, his quick feet turning Brandon Taylor before dinking a delightful ball to the back post, Liverpool couldn't capitalise though.
A minute later, Sunderland levelled.
Asoro, who has made a positive impact from the bench for the first team since Coleman took charge equalised.
Hume picked up a Maja cross on the left flank, steadied himself and produced a perfect cross back into the penalty area for Asoro to nod past Grabara from six-yards.
Liverpool started the second half with purpose, Wilson shooting over before Thomas Beadling showed good awareness to block another effort moments later.
The second half lacked the intensity of the first, though it spark into life briefly after 70 minutes; Ethan Robson booked for a foul on Wilson, the Liverpool team and bench incensed, calling
for a red.
Sunderland looked comfortable against the league leaders but were made to pay for some sloppy Alex Storey defending on 74 minutes.
Under pressure from Rhian Brewster, Storey was bundled off the ball 30-yards from goal, the Liverpool forward showing good strength before an excellent finish past Mika.
Mika produced an excellent stop to divert right-back Virtue's low effort onto the upright but it mattered little as the defender stayed in the area, Sunderland failed to clear the danger and
Virtue finished from close range to put Liverpool 3-1 up.
It was soon 4-1. Woodburn with a stunning 25-yard strike past Mika in the 82nd minute, Sunderland all at sea conceding three goals in eight minutes.
Sadly defensive collapses have been a familiar sight at the Stadium of Light in recent years.
Sunderland U23s (5-4-1): Mika, J Robson, Hume, Beadling, Taylor (Gamble, 62), Storey, Asoro, E Robson (Allan, 89), Maja (Bale, 89), Embleton, Greenwood.
Subs: Brotherton, Talbot, Allan, Bale.
Booked: E.Robson (70)
Goals: Asoro (41)
Liverpool U23s (4-2-3-1): Grabara, Virtue, Johnston (Garcia, 84), Jones, Whelan, Brannagan, Wilson, Kane, Brewster (Alves, 84), Woodburn, Dhanda (Adekanye, 62).
Subs: Atherton, Parker.
Booked: Brannagan (22), Virtue (85)
Goals: Brannagan (pen, 5), Brewster (74), Virtue (79), Woodburn (82)