Bali Mumba returned from his recent England call-up as Sunderland Under-23s drew 1-1 with Norwich at the Stadium of Light.
Jack Bainbridge’s equaliser moments before half-time was enough to earn the young Black Cats a point in the Premier League 2, Division 2, clash following Adam Idah’s opener.
Elliott Dickman’s side rode their luck at times, especially in the second half when the visitors squandered several good opportunities.
There were some positives for the hosts, though, most notably the performance of 18-year-old Benjamin Kimpioka, who tirelessly led the line in a 4-1-2-3 formation.
Behind him, Mumba, who played for England Under-18s last week, lined up alongside Ethan Robson in midfield.
But it was Swedish striker Kimpioka, playing in the central striker role, who particularly caught the eye in the early exchanges.
The teenager almost opened the scoring inside 10 minutes when he wrestled past two Norwich defenders before firing an effort over the bar.
Two minutes later the hosts went close again after Mumba teed up Robson from a well-worked corner, but the latter’s low shot rebounded off the post.
Norwich saw more of the ball as the half wore on, and at the other end Canaries forward Ant Spyrou was causing problems, twice shooting just off target.
Kimpioka continued to cause problems, through, and on 26 minutes he forced Norwich keeper John McCracken into an instinctive save. The rebound fell to Robson, whose effort was blocked on the line.
However, Sunderland began to look vulnerable at the back, especially when dealing with long balls over the top.
The hosts were made to pay on 31 minutes when Spyrou clipped a pass straight down the middle of the pitch and Adam Idah poked home the opening goal.
Sunderland were fortunate not to fall further behind after Spyrou stabbed wide from Caleb Ricaards’ cross three minutes later.
Then, Owen Gamble and defender Alex Storey were forced to make a superb double block inside their own penalty area, denying Simon Power then Ricaards respectively.
But Sunderland drew level on the stroke of half-time, when Gamble’s corner travelled all the way to the back post and Bainbridge turned home the equaliser
The second half burst into life as Idah hit the post after running onto another central pass.
Moments later, Kimpioka was denied by McCracken, who sprung to his left to palm away a powerful shot.
But the visitors continued to create the better openings, with defender Timi Odusina and Idah wasting chances.
The best opportunity, however, fell to Spyrou, who appeared to have the goal at his mercy following Idah’s cross, but the former skewed his shot wide.
Substitute Jack Diamond also saw a shot saved by McCracken but the game finished level.
Sunderland: Patterson, Taylor, Bainbridge (Diamond, 65), Storey, Hunter, Hackett (Bale, 48), Mumba, Robson, Connelly, Gamble (C), Kimpioka.
Subs not used: Young, Johnstone, Kokolo.
Goal: Bainbridge (45)
Norwich: McCracken, Kavnal, Ricaards, Odusina (C) , Jones, Phillips (Payne 80), Power, Aransibia, Idah, Spyrou (Scully 90), Coley.
Subs not used: Scully, Johnson.
Goal: Idah (31)
Booked: Payne (86)
Referee: Mr Martin Woods.