Sunderland secured a decisive 4-1 win over Blackburn Rovers in the Under-18 Premier League at the Academy of Light on Saturday writes Neville Pilkington.
The young Black Cats responded well to successive heavy defeats to Everton (5-1) and Manchester City (6-2) to bag only their second win of the campaign.
They started on the front foot, going ahead after only three minutes. Jack Diamond delivered a high, inswinging corner from the left and Australian central defender Jacob Young rose majestically to head home.
The Wearsiders went on to dominate the first half, adding two further goals.
On 27 minutes, a great run down the centre by Benjie Kimpioka, outpacing his marker, allowed him to feed Jack Diamond, on the left, and the wide man cut in to hammer a strike past Blackburn keeper Matthew Campbell.
Two minutes later, Diamond reciprocated by sending Kimpioka bursting clear to crash a strike past Campbell.
It had been nearly all Sunderland, playing clever football on the break and looking dangerous with every attack. Fifteen-year-old Bali Mumba made his debut at this level and showed good control and neat touches in a promising display.
The second period was more even, with Rovers coming back into it but held at bay by some resolute work by Young and Rayed Derbali in central defence.
Rovers were rewarded by a consolation goal 10 minutes from time when Ben Paton scored with a looping header from a left-side centre.
The goal seemed to act as a wake-up call to Sunderland, though, and Diamond thumped a set-piece against the bar three minutes from the end.
Undaunted, the hosts did add a fourth goal a minute later when sub Tom Howard cracked in a fierce 12-yard shot to seal the victory.
Sunderland coach Mark Atkinson said: “It was important that we reacted well to last week’s game and we certainly did.
“The first half, in particular, we played good football on the break which led to a comfortable win”.
Sunderland U18s: Patterson, Evans, Kokolo, Hickey, Derbali, Young, Kimpioka, Mumba (McAughtrie 71), Connelly (Dunne 57) Hackett (Howard 82). Diamond. Subs: Woud, Best.