What happened as Arbenit Xhemajli stepped up comeback during Sunderland U23s loss to Newcastle U23s
Arbenit Xhemajli started for Sunderland U23s against Newcastle United U23s at the Stadium of Light this evening as the defender stepped up his return from injury.
Sunderland took a first half lead during the Wear-Tyne clash through Tyrese Dyce but surrendered their lead after the interval with goals from Jay Turner-Cooke and Adam Wilson.
Will Harris, Oliver Younger and Stephen Wearne missed out on Elliot Dickman’s starting XI after travelling to Crewe with the first-team as Sunderland’s U23s looked to bounce back from a 1-0 loss to West Brom in the Premier League 2 last time out.
Harrison Sohna, who made the trip south with Lee Johnson’s squad to Gillingham, started in the middle with first-team defender Arbenit Xhemajli getting the nod as he stepped up his recovery following a serious knee problem.
After his first outing of any sort against Leeds United U21s two weeks ago, Xhemajli partnered Patrick Almond following his return from the injury which had kept him out since October 2020.
Jacob Carney started in goal after a successful display against Manchester United U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy with Sunderland lining up in the 4-2-3-1 formation currently favoured by the club.
For Newcastle United, Turner-Cooke started in the middle against his former club.
The 17-year-old asked to leave Sunderland after his father John Cooke was made redundant from his post as kitman at the Stadium of Light after 35 years of service.
And it was Newcastle who started the game the better with early pressure.
That was until Sunderland centre-forward Joe Ryder burst through the Magpies’ defence, sensationally skipping around five defenders before pulling his shot wide of Dan Langley’s goal.
There was also some drama when Joe White committed a late foul which prompted a reaction from Sunderland’s youngsters.
Some minor pushing ensued in the centre circle.
Dyce, who started at left-back behind winger Nathan Newell, was booked for his part in the scuffle whilst White escaped a caution for his questionable tackle.
Kachosa and Ellis Taylor proved to be Sunderland’s brightest ball carriers in the opening 20 minutes but the visitors’ defence proved resolute.
There was brief concern over Taylor after 30 minutes played when the Black Cats’ number 10 was clattered on the edge of his box but, he managed to continue as Newcastle ramped up the pressure.
Soon after, Sohna registered a shot from outside of the area but it flew over way Langley’s bar after Richardson’s good work to recycle the ball following Newell’s cross.
Tom Scott became the second Sunderland player to receive a caution after his foul was followed by some choice words aimed at referee Steven Copeland.
Dickman’s side won their first corner of the game in 34 minutes as Sunderland enjoyed a decent spell of possession but Taylor’s delightful delivery somehow failed to find a red and white head.
But it was the home side who broke the deadlock with five minutes of the first-half remaining as Xhemajli’s header found Dyce, who pokec home following Taylor’s corner.
Carney then produced a save to keep maintain his side’s advantage seconds later as Newcastle pushed for an instant response before the interval.
Dylan Stephenson then raced through onto a stunning through ball from Lucas De Bolle but Carney was once again equal to the shot to deny Newcastle.
De Bolle was at the heart of things for Newcastle again as he produced an important tackle to deny Kachosa a run at goal down the right wing.
Sunderland closed out the opening stanza after that and ended the half a goal to the good with neither side making any substitutions following the interval.
Dickman’s men initially started the second period well with Sohna spotting Langley off his line but skewed his shot over the bar from some distance.
The goalkeeper had managed to get himself in a mess as he and his defender tried to clear a loose ball.
But Newcastle drew level after White took aim from the edge of the area, his shot deflecting in off former Sunderland youngster Turner-Cooke who celebrated his goal with gusto.
And it didn’t take long for the away side to take the lead in a quick turnaround.
A 50-50 broke for Newcastle and who managed to produce an overload with Xhemajli caught out of position following an attempted tackle.
White did really well to slide Wilson in who finished emphatically to leave Carney with no chance.
Moments later Taylor was lucky not to be booked following a late challenge on his man as Sunderland chased the game.
Xhemajli was withdrawn on the 70-minute mark with Cameron Jessup replacing the Kosovan international.
Caden Kelly also replaced Joe Ryder at the same time in a double substitution as Sunderland looked to roll the dice in the closing stages.
Turner-Cooke was withdrawn from the fold with seven minutes of normal time remaining.
The ex-Sunderland academy graduate was clapped off the field by home supporters initially but that was quickly drowned out by a chorus of boos from the Black Cats faithful.
The home side pushed for an equaliser during the closing stages and enjoyed large chunks of possession with Sohna ever-present in Sunderland’s midfield as Dyce saw his header sail over Langley’s bar.
With minutes remaining Langley made a save only for the ball to fall for Dyce, but couldn’t make a clean connection and Sunderland’s best chance of the second half went begging.
But Sunderland just couldn’t break a resolute Newcastle side, who successfully managed to close the game out for the win.
Sunderland U21s: Carney, Richardson, Dyce, Almond, Xhemajli (Jessup 70), Newell, Kachosa, Scott, Sohna, Taylor, Ryder (Kelly 70)
Unused subs: McIntyre, Johnson, Middlemas
Newcastle United U121s: Langley, Barrett, Bondswell, Young, Wiggett, Savage, Turner-Cooke (Scott 83), De Bolle (R. Thompson 87), Stephenson, Wilson (Longello 75), White
Unused subs: Cross, M. Thompson