Sunderland showed great character to come back from a two-goal deficit to grab a well-merited 2-2 draw away to Barclays U18 Premier League Northern Division leaders Everton on Saturday.
In fact, with three great chances after the equaliser, they could easily have stolen a winner against a team that had only been beaten once in the previous 13 games.
Saturday’s game was played in a very cold wind at Everton’s Finch Farm training base and, perhaps consequently, was rather scrappy.
The first half was very tight with neither side creating many chances.
Sunderland keeper Greg Purvis had to make a brave reaction save from a corner to deny Steven Kinsella, but the best chance fell to the Wearsiders when winger Joel Asoro looked a certain scorer but was brought down well inside the box.
Amazingly, the referee did not award the stonewall penalty.
Everton took full advantage to break and score with Morgan Feeney’s near-post header following a corner just before the interval.
The young Black Cats improved in the second period, with Andrew Nelson denied by a fine save by home keeper Ciaran O’Loughlin.
But Sunderland but were caught with a sucker punch as the Toffees’ Delial Brewster broke down the left to chase a long ball which was squared into the middle for a tap-in by Shayne Lavery.
Undeterred, Sunderland hit back on 80 minutes through Asoro, who coolly finished off Owen Gamble’s clipped ball into space.
Six minutes later, big striker Nelson bundled his way through two challenges down the right channel to smash the ball home for 2-2.
Even then, Sunderland were not content and Asoro, twice, and Elliott Embleton both had excellent chances to take all three points.
Coach Elliott Dickman was understandably elated after the game, saying: “It was a really tough match, but we made a wonderful comeback and could have easily won it.”
Everton: O’Loughlin, Yates, Myers, Yarney, Feeney, Bainbridge, Donohue, Kiersey, Brewster, Lavery, Kinsella
Sunderland: Purvis, Gamble, Taylor, Storey, Hume, Asoro, Bale, Wright, Molyneux, Embleton, Nelson