The story of the game as Sunderland fall to narrow defeat against Belenenses
Sunderland ended their pre-season tour with a 1-0 defeat against Belenenses.
The Black Cats were the better side for the opening hour but a defensive lapse cost them dear.
Here’s exactly how the game went….
Sunderland XI (3-4-3): McLaughlin; McLaughlin, Willis, Flanagan; O’Nien, Leadbitter, McGeouch, Hume; Watmore, Embleton, Grigg
Jack Ross continued with the back three that has been used all through pre-season, though Elliot Embleton was given a chance to impress in a more advances position than usual
He made an early impression as Sunderland sprung an early counter, Watmore driving forward and playing a smart one-two. Embleton’s pass was perfect and Watmore found the angle just too tight as he fired across goal from the near post.
Mika, the former Black Cats stopper who never played a game, was well beaten.
Belenenses found Watmore’s pace a major problem to handle, the forward finding space to attack in between the full back and the centre back. A similar move almost saw Will Grigg get the opening goal, but the striker just couldn’t get his shot away and the danger was cleared.
The Black Cats were the better side, though with a new back three there was some occasional uncertainty and the Portugese side came close to exploiting in when Nico burst away from Jordan Willis, Tom Flanagan forced to bring him down on the edge of the area. In a league contest, it could have been deemed a red card offence. Lucca smashed the free kick off the bar, with Jon McLaughlin unmoved in the Black Cats goal.
Sunderland broke quickly and Watmore again got the byline, Denver Hume racing onto the loose ball before being denied by Mika.
It was Embleton and Watmore who were causing most of the problems, the talented youngster playing a number of dangerous balls in behind the Belenenses defence.
Watmore was unlucky to see another effort deflected wide after racing onto one of those lofted passes, though Sunderland were fortunate that when Tom Flanagan misjudged a pass across goal, Matija’s effort was straight at McLaughlin.
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Sunderland XI (3-4-3): McLaughlin; McLaughlin (Baldwin, 83), Willis (Ozturk, 65), Flanagan; O’Nien (Diamond, 83), Leadbitter (Sammut, 72), McGeouch (Power, 72), Hume (Gooch, 72); Watmore (Kimpioka, 65), Embleton (Maguire, 72), Grigg (Wyke, 65)
Ross stuck with his XI and they started the half much the better of the two teams, dominating the ball and penning Belenenses back in their own half.
The pressure almost told when Dylan McGeouch, quiet in the first half but influential now, sprung Watmore clear with a perfectly judged pass.
Watmore fired a ball across goal where Embleton’s late run almost forced a goal, a fine low save from Mika’s replacement Koffi denying him a deserved goal.
Despite their dominance, the Black Cats were let off when Matija charged down a clearance from Willis. Nico met the loose ball and a deflection of Flanagan dropped just wide.
They fell behind moments later when Hume was unable to cut out a through ball, Calila racing onto the pass and firing tidily past McLaughlin.
The Primeira Liga side were beginning to look stronger in the searing heat, casuing serious problems on the break before both sides made a number of changes.
The fresh legs allowed Sunderland to recover their composure and get some required energy into midfield, with Max Power impresisvely returning to the action despite being expected initially to miss the start of the season with an ankle problem.
Sunderland got a foothold back in the game but chances were few and far beaten in the closing stages as Belenenses held on comfortably.
Booked: Flanagan, 20 O’Nien, 83