SUNDERLAND just edged a fantastic five-goal thriller against Manchester United in the Barclays U18 Premier League yesterday.
United played neat possession football and looked good for periods, but Sunderland kept at it to twice take the lead and finally triumph with a deserved match-winning goal four minutes from time.
The Wearsiders could have been in front as early as the first minute when a great through ball from Dan Pybus cut open United’s defence to find Jordan Blinco, whose goalbound shot was well saved by keeper Dean Henderson.
During a fairly even first half, Blinco had two more excellent chances to score but was thwarted by the outstanding Henderson each time.
However. there was nothing he could do to prevent Sunderland taking the lead in the 37th minute. Andrew Nelson turned, causing United’s Charlie Scott to slip which allowed Ethan Robson to go on and drive confidently low across the keeper into the far corner.
It looked as though the young Black Cats would go in to the interval with a one-goal lead, but they were stunned just before the whistle with a goal out of the blue by the visitors.
Marcus Rashford got the ball at least 25 yards out and was not closed down, allowing him to unleash a magnificent strike which swerved into the top corner, with Sunderland keeper Greg Purvis motionless.
Both sides had fielded fairly young teams with many Under-16s included, but the game continued into the second period with even more outstanding football.
On 78 minutes, Sunderland’s Blinco was unlucky when his 20-yard shot was tipped onto the post by Henderson, but the lad from Brandon finally got his reward with a goal seconds later. The frontman cleverly interchanged passes with Dan Wright before banging the ball home.
However, the lead only lasted one minute before United hit back to equalise, with Scott crossing from the right for Irish striker Ruairi Croskery to hammer high into the net.
It was anybody’s game now, with both sides going flat out for the winner.
Nelson went on a long run for Sunderland which ended with a fierce drive just over the top and followed up minutes later with another effort that just cleared the bar.
The hosts were on top and Nelson was through, but keeper Henderson saved with his feet.
Undeterred, the pressure was still building when the United defence was finally pierced by a wonder goal from Pybus, who let fly to arrow the ball high into the net from 20 yards, clinching victory with a goal that was fit to win any match.
Academy director Ged McNamee said: “It was a really tough game – they were very good but we stuck at it.
“It was nip and tuck throughout, but we created more chances and their keeper was the harder worked of the two. We stayed disciplined, which contributed to the win.”
SUNDERLAND: Purvis, Ellison, Ledger, Colquhoun, Sukar (Beadling 45), E Robson (Wright 55), McCarthy, Pybus, McEvoy (Molyneux 70), Blinco, Nelson
MANCHESTER UTD: Henderson, Warren (Blanchfield 38) (Makela 69), Scott, Tuanzebe, Borthwick-Jackson, Riley, Thompson, Kehinde, Rashford, Mitchell (Rathbone 52), Croskery