A young Sunderland side took powerful Chelsea all the way before succumbing to a 2-1 Premier League Cup defeat after extra time at the Academy of Light on Saturday, writes Neville Pilkington,
Once again, Sunderland were missing four regulars – Benji Kimpioka, Jack Diamond, Lee Connelly and Jake Hackett – who are now with the Under-23 squad.
From start to finish, both sides had chances, but Sunderland could so easily have taken the game to a spot-kick finale but missed a penalty in the last minute of extra time.
Chelsea had a lot of the ball in the first half, but Sunderland kept their shape and looked solid, breaking well in an even start.
Keeper Anthony Patterson, who had shown safe, assured handling, suffered a leg injury just after the re-start and New Zealander Michael Woud took over in Sunderland’s goal.
Chelsea took the lead with a penalty from Conor Gallagher in the 62nd minute after keeper Woud brought down Martell Taylor-Crossdale.
But the advantage only lasted for three minutes before the hosts levelled with a penalty. A diagonal ball from Jordan Hickey was collected by Sam Greenwood, who was fouled in the area and got up to score with a low, hard shot to the keeper’s right.
Chelsea came on strongly and hit the post twice, through Taylor-Crossdale and Tariq Lamptey, but the hosts dug in to force extra time.
Chelsea went 2-1 up just before the first quarter ended, racing away to finish well after Sunderland had lost the ball, Juan Castillo netting after good work from Gallagher and George McEachran.
Sunderland were given a golden chance to level again in the last minute of extra time.
Sub Connor Slack was brought down by keeper Karlo Ziger. Greenwood again took the penalty, and went the other way this time, but the keeper read his intentions and saved to win the match.
Sunderland coach Mark Atkinson was full of praise for the performance, saying: “Our young team played very well against a good side - they did themselves proud.”
Sunderland U18s: Patterson (Woud 50). Edmundsson, Young, Devali, Kokola (Slack 105), Mumba, Connolly, Hickey, Scothern (Devine 75), Dunne, Greenwood. Subs : Lilley, Leonard.