Sunderland suffered their first pre-season defeat to Belenenses as the Portuguese side came out 1-0 winners.
The lads played well in the first half and really should have gone into the break 1-0 up. Diogo Calila scored the only goal of the game in the second to half as the Primeira Liga side sealed the win in Sunderland’s final match in Portugal.
Sunderland played their second game in Portugal against Lisbon side Belenenses looking to end the trip to the Algarve with a win.
Jack Ross made a few changes to the side which drew with Benfica B as Jon McLaughlin, Tom Flanagan, Luke O’Nien, Dylan McGeouch, Denver Hume, Duncan Watmore and Elliot Embleton all came into the side.
Sunderland’s opposition Belenenses were only founded last year and are a spinoff of the Belenenses team of the past. They finished in the middle of the pack as they ended the Primeira Liga last season in 9th in the which is the highest tier in Portugal. This would be no easy game, but with former Sunderland goalkeeper, Mika in goal anything was possible.
Sunderland created the first opening of the game in the fourth minute as Watmore and Embleton played a brilliant one-two as the latter released Watmore through on goal, but on the angle, he couldn’t quite squeeze it in the far corner past Mika. It was some great play which really should have resulted in the opening goal.
The lads had started the game strongly and were looking sharp offensively, the front three of Will Grigg, Watmore and Embleton were linking up well and offering a threat going forward.
The Sunderland fans were in fine voice with a brilliant rendition of twist and shout, much like the Benfica game, the travelling fans were thoroughly enjoying their themselves in south Portugal.
Belenenses had their first chance of the game 20 minutes in as Jonatan Lucca’s free-kick crashed off the post as McLaughlin was rooted to the spot.
Straight down the other end Watmore and Grigg combined well to set up Hume whose shot was saved onto the side netting and it looked as if it went in the back of the net on first viewing. The resulting corner was headed by Flanagan, but it was straight down Mika’s throat.
Watmore was having a great game operating on the left-hand side and was a constant threat to Mika’s goal and he weaved through a few Belenenses players but didn’t get the contact on the shot as it deflected wide.
Jack Ross will have been pleased with the first-half performance as the team were playing with freedom and all that was missing was that elusive first goal. Against strong opposition, it was a good sign of things to come.
Sunderland created the first chance of the second half as O’Nien played a great ball down the line to Watmore who cut inside from the right and played it back to Embleton whose shot from 12 yards out was brilliantly saved by substitute goalkeeper Kouakou Koffi.
The Portuguese side came into the game and had a few half-chances after Willis’ clearance was charged down and his shot was blocked by Flanagan it was a real let-off for the lads.
Belenenses took the lead 12 minutes into the second period as Hume failed to cut out a through ball and Diogo Calila ran through on goal and stroked it past McLaughlin to give the Portuguese side the lead. Sunderland looked to have stepped off the gas and Belenenses took full advantage.
As the half-progressed Sunderland looked tired, they had been doing a lot of high pressing and it was beginning to take its toll on the fitness of the players. Not surprisingly Ross looked to his bench and brought on Benji Kimpioka, Charlie Wyke and Alim Ozturk for Watmore, Grigg and Willis. Watmore had a great game and it’s been a long time since he’s been that lively – long may it continue.
The game didn’t have a great flow and with so many substitutes for both sides, it slowed the game down and killed any momentum.
It’d be great to be writing about the match action, but the most entertaining part of the night was the fans chants. No doubt after a day of soaking in the Algarve weather, the fans were in great form. A personal favourite chant has to be “get your socks off for the lads.”
With five minutes to play Sunderland didn’t look likely to get an equaliser as Belenenses looked the more likely to get another and seal the win.
Sunderland: J McLaughlin, Willis (Ozturk 65), Flanagan, C McLaughlin (Baldwin 84), O’Nien (Diamond 84), Hume (Gooch 72), Leadbitter (Power 72), McGeouch (Sammut 72), Embleton (Maguire 72), Watmore (Kimpioka 65), Grigg (Wyke 65).
Subs not used: Loovens, Burge, Robson, Patterson.
Full Time: Sunderland 0-1 Belenenses
ALS Man of the Match: Duncan Watmore