Leeds United U21 3-1 SAFC U21
Sunderland Under-21s were beaten on Sunday afternoon despite a spirited display, going down 3-1 to PL2 Division 2 leaders Leeds United at Elland Road.
Mateo Joseph struck in either half for the Whites, with Sonny Perkins also finding the net.
Isaac Lihadji levelled the scores in the first half for the Lads, who now have two PL2 fixtures remaining in 2022-23.
An open start saw both sides test the water, as Graeme Murty’s side included a sprinkling of first-team players.
Leeds did open the scoring 17 minutes in, as Joseph found space inside the area to fire into the bottom corner following a well-built attack.
But the Lads responded in the best possible fashion, with Lihadji on hand to tuck away the rebound after Niall Huggins’ marauding run and shot was parried out by Joel Robles in the Leeds goal.
Sunderland’s youngsters were giving as good as they got against the league leaders for large parts of the first half, though Alex Bass was forced into his first major save when he got down well to hold Joe Snowdon’s shot from 15 yards.
But the hosts did regain the lead with 10 minutes until the break, as Darko Gyabi advanced into the area down the left-hand side and pulled it back for Perkins, who swept in Leeds’ second.
The Lads looked for another leveller before the interval, Ben Middlemas testing Joel Robles down low to his left, before Lihadji similarly tested the goalkeeper, but it remained 2-1 after 45.
A strong start to the second half saw the Lads edge onto the front foot, Ellis Taylor forcing a save out of Robles before Middlemas carved open the Leeds defence only to see his shot miscued just inside the area.
Lihadji came close to a second, Robles taking in his shot after good work from Zak Johnson.
As Leeds looked to return the pressure, Gyabi took aim from 30 yards but was denied by a strong block from half-time substitute Ben Crompton.
Harry Gardiner looked to add to his tally which stood at five in four prior to the game, but fired a first-time hit over after Crompton’s shot was blocked.
Chances came at more of a premium as the encounter ebbed into the last 10 minutes, Bass taking in Sean McGurk’s shot which came as the hosts’ first on target of the half.
Paco Gallardo’s side were still however doing enough to keep the Lads at bay, despite the liveliness of Taylor, Middlemas, Johnson and Lihadji in the wide areas.
And for all the Black Cats could offer, it was three for Leeds late on as Joseph found space from close range and lashed in his second of the match.
Next up will see the young Lads open April with a home clash at Eppleton against Nottingham Forest, the final home contest of the season.
SAFC U21: Bass; Huggins (Crompton 46’), Johnson (Kachosa 85’), Anderson, Taylor ©; Ekwah (Burke 46’), Rigg (Moore 79’); Lihadji, Kelly, Middlemas; Gardiner.
Subs not used: Metcalf.