Sunderland endured heartbreak as Liverpool snatched a last-gasp winner in tonight’s Under-18 Premier League Northern Division match at Melwood.
The young Black Cats had the better of the first half and had given a display full of tenacity and courage only to be denied a point – the least they deserved – by an 88th-minute strike.
The first half was nip and tuck, with chances at either end, but Sunderland’s were the most clear-cut.
First, defender Jacob Young crashed a header against the underside of the bar following a left-wing corner and then Benji Kimpioka blazed over a golden opportunity to take the lead.
The game remained goalless at the break, but, just four minutes after the restart, the unbeaten Merseysiders took the lead as Irish International Glen McAuley sidefooted home a low left-side cross from Adam Lewis.
Undaunted, Sunderland fought back and levelled five minutes later.
Robbie Dunne delivered a great cross from the right and Scottish striker Lee Connelly rose to flick home a precise header across keeper Vitezslav Jaros.
Sunderland now had to withstand severe Liverpool pressure, but they were helped by keeper Michel Woud’s safe handling of several high crosses and some good saves.
It looked as though the Wearsiders would hold out for a draw, but disaster struck two minutes from normal time.
Liam Millar’s shot hit the Sunderland post and another sub, Curtis Jones, tapped in the winner.
Even then, in time added on, Connelly cracked in a super strike and just failed to force in the follow-up.
Visiting coach Mark Atkinson said: “We were absolutely gutted to come away with nothing after fighting so hard and working for each other so well.”
Liverpool U18s: Jaros, Sharif (Larouci), Williams, Glennon, Lewis, Clayton, Dixon-Bonner, Tagseth, Camacho, Glatzel (Jones), McAuley (Millar)
Sunderland U18s: Woud, Howard, Young, Denbali, Kokola, Mumba (Scothern 87), Hickey, Hackett, Kimpioka, Dunne (Leonard 75), Connelly.