Sunderland Under-23s were hit by a late three-goal Liverpool surge to succumb to their first Premier League 2 defeat of the season today.
But the game was much tighter than the scoreline suggests, against a Reds team featuring former Burnley star Danny Ings.
Elliott Dickman’s Black Cats, boosted by their come-from-behind opening-day win over Tottenham, more than held their own at Tranmere’s Prenton Park, and Andrew Nelson and Luke Molyneux both had first-half chances.
Liverpool’s half-time subs, Matty Virtue and Rhian Brewster helped the Reds dominate the second period. Sunderland still had their chances, though, with Molyneux having an effort blocked.
Sunderland needed Max Stryjek to deny Virtue, after he linked well with Ings, and the Pole then produced the save of the match to keep out a strike from Brewster, following Corey Whelan’s cutback.
The visitors could have gone ahead in the final quarter, with Chris Allan firing over the bar when found in a brilliant position at the back post and Elliot Embleton sending a curling effort just wide of Kamil Grabara’s post.
Liverpool capitalised to make the breakthrough on 79 minutes as Whelan headed a Yan Dhanda cross against the bar, only for Virtue to convert the rebound.
It was 2-0 on 83 minutes as Ovie Ejaria played a tremendous lofted pass over the defence for Brewster to beat a helpless Stryjek.
Liverpool added a late third goal, with Virtue firing home after fellow sub Brewster beat the visitors’ offside trap.
Liverpool U23s: Grabara, Whelan, Hart, Phillips, Jones, Williams, Kent (Brewster 46), Grujic (Virtue 46), Ings (Dhanda 70), Ejaria, Woodburn. Subs not used: Firth, Johnston.
Sunderland U23s: Stryjek, J Robson, Beadling, Ledger, Hume, Bale, E Robson, Embleton, Molyneux, Diamond (Allan 66), Nelson. Subs not used: Taylor, Talbot, Gamble, Wright.