Sunderland 2 Real Betis 0: Cats leave it late to sink Spaniards

Sunderland debutant Jack Rodwell battles for the ball against Real Betis at Heritage Park tonight
Sunderland debutant Jack Rodwell battles for the ball against Real Betis at Heritage Park tonight
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LATE STRIKES from Steven Fletcher and Connor Wickham ended Sunderland’s mini pre-season goal drought, as they secured a 2-0 win over Real Betis.

The Black Cats, who had netted just once in their previous three friendlies, dominated against the Spanish Second Division side, yet struggled to create clear-cut opportunities.

But with 10 minutes to go, substitute Fletcher pounced on a defensive error before calmly tucking the ball into the far corner.

And then moments later, Wickham doubled Sunderland’s advantage with a scorcher from the edge of the box, in the penultimate friendly for Gus Poyet’s side before Saturday’s final warm-up game against Udinese.

Jack Rodwell was thrust straight into the starting XI after completing his £10million move from Manchester City, with the 23-year-old partnering Seb Larsson and Liam Bridcutt in midfield.

Fellow new boy Santiago Vergini was also included, just an hour after the paperwork on his season-long loan move was signed and sealed.

Sunderland went close in the second minute when Rodwell swept the ball to the left-hand side for Emanuele Giaccherini, just outside the area.

Giaccherini cut inside and curled a right-footed shot inches over the top from 18 yards.

Seb Larsson shot a couple of yards wide in the 10th minute when Vergini’s dink forward deflected into his path on the right-hand side of the area and he let fly with a half-volley across the face of goal.

Rodwell, who moments earlier was flagged offside when he put the ball into an empty net, went close in the 23rd minute after an excellent run from Adam Johnson.

The winger showed excellent skill to get away from one man before benefiting from a fortuitous deflection to get in behind the Betis defence.

Johnson pulled it back to the onrushing Rodwell on the edge of the area, whose cushioned low shot was routinely gathered by keeper Antonio Adan low to his left.

Sunderland were forced into a change seven minutes before the break when Giaccherini pulled up with what looked to be a groin strain. Jordi Gomez took the place of the Italian international.

HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Betis 0

Poyet made a triple change at the interval, with Lee Cattermole, Charis Mavrias and Wes Brown replacing Rodwell, Vergini and John O’Shea.

Goalmouth action became increasingly scarce in the second half, yet Chuli glanced a header straight at Vito Mannone from Chuli’s cross with 20 minutes to go.

But with 10 minutes to go, Sunderland broke the deadlock when substitute Fletcher robbed Betis centre-half Gonzalez Bruno, to leave himself clean through on goal.

Fletcher coolly placed the ball low into the far corner from the edge of the area with his left foot for his third goal of pre-season.

Moments later, Gomez tried his luck from 20 yards when he smashed a left-footed shot a couple of yards wide.

Sunderland did double their advantage in the 83rd minute when Fletcher and Wickham exchanges passes on the edge of the area before the latter smashed it home left-footed.

Wickham almost added a third with two minutes to go when he burst away down the right, but his shot across goal was blocked well by Adan.

FULL-TIME Sunderland 2 Betis 0

SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Vergini (Mavrias 46), O’Shea (Brown 46), Roberge, van Aanholt, Bridcutt, Larsson, Rodwell (Cattermole 46), Giaccherini (Gomez 38), Johnson (Fletcher 67), Wickham. Sub not used: Pantilimon.

BETIS: Adan, Molinero, Bruno, Jordi, Xavi (Matilla 46), Pacheco (Chuli 46), Renella (Molina 73), Perquis, Cedrick, Castro, Alex. Subs not used: Gimenez, Carlos, Nono, Isaac, Isuardi, Garcia, Caro, Rodriguez, Pedro.