Tony Mowbray verdict on Sunderland's friendly win against Al-Shabab and THOSE late-match scenes

Tony Mowbray insisted an 'ultra-competitive' friendly that almost ended in an abandonment will be of benefit to his Sunderland players as they prepare to return to Championship action next weekend.

Sunderland beat Al-Shabab 1-0 thanks to a goal in the first half from Amad, but a game with a number of flash points finally boiled over thirteen minutes from time.

Lynden Gooch was confronted by an opposition player after a Dennis Cirkin foul, and the melee that followed only ended once officials from both clubs entered the field of play.

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The game eventually restarted and was played to a sedate conclusion, and Mowbray said it was a positive evening for his players and particularly for those returning from injury.

Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray

"It was a good exercise for us," Mowbray told safc.com.

"It was played at a real match tempo and from very early on there were a few meaty tackles going in. Both teams stood their ground and so what was a friendly and a decent football match became a game with a real competitive edge. It went a bit beyond where it should have done late on but we both agreed that we should make a few substitutions and calm the game down. That's what we did and we ended up getting plenty out of it - it was good.

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"The players have trained really hard, they've done it twice a day in the sun and they applied themselves really well tonight. I think the fact that the game became ultra-competitive was good for the team because we had to play on the front foot, we had to be aggressive and it was a good football match."

Mowbray says the training camp has been a valuable opportunity to work on getting tactical ideas across away from the usual cycle of match preparation and recovery. Allied with the return of some key players, he believes it could lead to an exciting second half of the season for the club.

He said: "We've been trying to lay some foundations, I've been here a few months and a lot of the early part of that - there were a lot of positives and I didn't think there was much broken.

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"You think back to my first game against Rotherham, Ross Stewart scored two goals and the team looked pretty good to me. I didn't really touch too much but in the last few weeks I've been a lot more vocal around the team, in terms of what's expected, what we have to do and how we have to play. Hopefully we'll create that identity of a team that is on the front foot but is good with the ball, and can hurt the opposition with good attacking options. We've obviously been short of attacking options in the last few months but hopefully they're coming back, Ross is nearly there and Ellis is doing well, working really hard and getting his fitness up.

"I'm hoping it's going to be a really exciting second half of the season - there's a lot of positives from this week."