Brighton & Hove Albion U23 3-1 Sunderland U23
Recap the action from Sunderland’s latest Premier League Cup tie…
Sunderland under-23s’ hopes of qualification in the Premier League Cup were dealt a blow on the south coast tonight.
Brighton & Hove Albion produced a strong display and swiftly gained the advantage when Jiri Stalak broke the deadlock on 17 minutes.
Viktor Gyokeres then doubled Albion’s lead on the stroke of half-time before his cross on 56 minutes was turned home by the helpless Josh Robson.
Elliot Embleton pulled one back from the penalty spot, but it proved too little too late to mount a comeback and defeat has seen Sunderland slip to third, behind Albion on goal difference.
POLE IN GOAL
After being recalled from his loan spell at Sky Bet League Two club Accrington Stanley on Thursday, Max Stryjek was named in the starting line-up for Sunderland on the south coast. Elliott Dickman also handed starts to four second-year scholars – Lee Connelly, Jack Diamond, Benji Kimpioka, and Jake Hackett – are he continued to blood the next batch of players. Jacob Young and Williams Kokolo also featured on the bench.
GETTING ONE BACK
Sunderland made the mammoth journey to the south coast, searching for three points. Three points that would lift them to the summit of group H in their bid to reach the knockout stages of this season’s Premier League Cup competition. But not just that. Having suffered a dismal 5-0 defeat on home turf to Albion earlier this season, this was the lads’ first opportunity to strike back, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
Both sides gave a positive account of themselves in the opening stages as chances fell inside the box at either end. Gyokeres provided a real attacking spark in the Albion ranks, cannoning a strike off the bar inside two minutes before Diamond forced Niki Maenpaa into action at the other end. Aaron Connelly then drew a stop from Stryjek, with Skalak seeing his rebound deflect behind for a corner. But it was Gyokeres, who was offering plenty of problems for Sunderland down their left flank, and it was no surprise when his cross from the right on 17 minutes found its way into the back of the net. The Swedish striker powered his way down the wing and did well to pick out the intelligent movement of Skalak, who did the rest. Albion advantage.
The Seagulls were flying. Making life difficult for Sunderland and looking dangerous inside their area. It took the Black Cats a while to find their feet, but when they did Scottish frontman Connelly led the charge. A prolific scorer for the youth team, Connelly miscued his first effort before Maenpaa gathered his second after good link-up play with Hackett. Sunderland’s head of steam, though, didn’t last. Deep into first-half stoppage time, the knockout blow was dealt. Having threatened throughout the opening 45, Gyokeres showed his class when he curled a fine effort beyond Stryjek to double his side’s advantage.
Brighton picked up where they left off at the start of the second 45, swiftly peppering Stryjek’s goal as Max Sanders orchestrated a number of openings. Firstly, the instrumental Albion player threaded Connolly in and then he fashioned an effort for himself only for it to deflect wide. But with 56 minutes played, Sunderland’s resolved cracked for a third time. And it was Gyokeres again who dealt the blow. The Swede fizzed his cross into the mix and Robson unfortunately diverted the ball into his own net.
Stryjek continued to be the busier of the two ‘keepers as Connolly drove a strike straight at him before later nestling an effort on the roof of the net. But Sunderland were handed a lifeline on 66 minutes when Tom Dallison handled inside the area, leaving the referee with no alternative but to award a penalty. Embleton stepped up and duly dispatched to reduce the deficit to two. Game on.
UNTIL THE END
Or so it should’ve been. Sunderland pressed hard in the closing, Alex Storey knocked his header wide from a corner and then Williams Kokolo was introduced for the tiring Jake Hackett to blood some more life into the Black Cats’ attacking line. Unfortunately, though, it was to be and Brighton held out to secure the points and deal Sunderland’s hopes of qualification a blow.
Brighton & Hove Albion U23: Maenpaa, Mateju, Cox, Hutchinson (Davies, 43), Hall, Dallison, Forbes (Bjordall, 80), Skalak, Gyokeres (Alzate, 83), Connelly, Sanders.
Subs: Davies, Collings
Sunderland U23: Stryjek, J Robson, Hume, Gamble, Taylor, Storey, Diamond (Young, 91), Embleton, Connelly, Kimpioka, Hackett (Kokolo, 84)
Subs: Woud, Allan, Brotherton