Sunderland grabbed a late winner to just edge a close, tight game against old rivals Newcastle at the Academy this morning, writes Neville Pilkington.
They could have got off to a tremendous start in the first minute when Ethan Robson went clear only to shoot low just wide of the far post. Then Jordan Blinco put in Dan Pybus who was again close with another shot that was just off target.
But the best chance of taking an early lead came in the 9th minute when a penalty was awarded for hand ball by Newcastle defender Ben Pollock. Sunderland’s Rees Greenwood hit the spot kick against the base of the post with the keeper beaten but the goal still intact.
The Tynesiders came back but were kept at bay by super last minute tackles by Sunderland defenders Ryan Ellison and Denver Hume who both went on to have fine games.
It was a more even contest now after the Wearsiders had dominated the opening stages but just before the break for halftime they did take the lead that their overall play warranted.
It was Greenwood who made amends for his penalty miss with a magnificent goal. The winger had switched to the left side to cut in and hit a brilliant low strike across keeper Freddie Woodman just inside the far post.
In the second period, the visitors came back strongly and on 59 minutes winger Mackenzie Heaney curled a shot against the bar.
The increased pressure paid off with an equaliser in the 73rd minute. Sunderland keeper Greg Purvis flapped at the corner and Newcastle sub Sean Longstaff slammed home high into the net from close range.
The match now looked as though it was heading for a draw but seven minutes from time, the young Black Cats claimed the winner.
Greenwood made good progress down the left before crossing where full-back Ellison came in to seal the game with a downward header which bounced down and up high into the roof of the net.
Sunderland now had the confidence to see out the remainder of the game with good possession and composure to make sure of the winning start to the season.
Coach Elliott Dickman said: “It was a tough game with both teams showing determination and character in a match that could have gone either way.”
Sunderland: Purvis, Ellison, Hume, Wright (Nelson 63), Colquhoun, Ledger, Greenwood, E Robson, Blinco, Pybus, McEvoy (Lowrie 85).
Subs not used: Taylor, Roberts, Embleton.
Newcastle: Woodman, Newbury, Gibson, Drennan, Pollock, Cameron, Heaney, Storey, Johnson, Holmes, Laidler.