Benfica B Pre-Season Report
Sunderland played out a goalless draw against talented Benfica B in the team’s first of two games in the Algarve.
Both teams had chances in the first half, but neither could manage to beat the opposing keeper and open the scoring. Sunderland had the better of the second half and should have took the lead through Duncan Watmore late on who hit the crossbar.
Sunderland embarked on their first preseason game in Portugal against a tricky Benfica B team looking to get the lads’ second win in as many matches this pre-season.
Jack Ross named a strong side with the likes of Will Grigg, Charlie Wyke, Chris Maguire all starting. It was a first chance for fans to see Jordan Willis who arrived on a free transfer after leaving Coventry. Much like the game against South Shields, Ross played three at the back with Willis, Alim Ozturk and Jack Baldwin starting this time out.
From the outset, Sunderland playing a B team should be easy, but Benfica’s youth side finished fourth in the Portuguese second division last season. You might remember the last time Sunderland came up against a Portuguese B team as Sunderland’s U23s were comfortably beaten 5-0 by Porto B a few years ago in the Premier League International Cup final.
With just less than two minutes on the clock, Benfica should have been in front as Alvaro’s header was cleared off the line by Lynden Gooch.
Benfica had started the better and forced Lee Burge into an early save as Rodrigo Conceicao was sent through on goal, but the former Coventry stopper stood firm to deny the Benfica forward.
Sunderland’s first chance of the match was a very speculative effort from Maguire who tried to chip the keeper from the half-way line – he wasn’t too far away and had Diogo Garrido scrambling.
14 minutes into the game and the lads stepped up a gear, after some great work from Gooch down the left he slipped it through to Wyke who managed to outmuscle his defender and forced Garrido into a save. Moments later the ball Gooch again crossed it into the box and found Grigg at the near post but could only flick his header just wide.
Sunderland could have taken the lead as Leadbitter’s free-kick was crossed into Baldwin at the back post who nicely played it to Ozturk, but his header flew over the bar. Following a nervy opening five minutes, the lads were playing a lot better.
After a lively opening 15-20 minutes, the game’s pace had gone, it was beginning to look like a training game and both sides didn’t seem in any rush to score the opening goal.
Benfica’s Conceicao was causing real problems with his pace; he was sent through down the left and cut inside as he tried to beat Burge to his left but was denied as the keeper made a good save.
Gooch from long-range almost scored a cross/shot as the makeshift wing-back clipped the top of the crossbar with an effort from range. After ten minutes of - to put it nicely - not the best football, it was nice to see the two teams having a go again.
Maguire from about 30 yards out stepped up to take a free-kick and his effort whistled over the bar as Sunderland came close to taking the lead moments before the break.
Going into the second half the lads made four changes as Willis, Grant Leadbitter, Grigg and Conor McLaughlin were replaced by Glenn Loovens, Luke O’Nien, Benji Kimpioka and a debut for Ruben Sammut.
The first effort of the half was from Sunderland as Ozturk fired one in from range and it just flashed wide of the post, it was a promising start to the second half from the lads.
After being introduced at half time, Kimpioka was looking to make his mark and he’s unlike any player you’re likely to see. I’m not sure he knows what he’s doing sometimes but it’s sure fun to watch.
23 minutes into the second half there were several more changes with Tom Flanagan, Dylan McGeough, Duncan Watmore, and Elliot Embleton all coming on for Maguire, Wyke, Ethan Robson, Gooch and Ozturk.
Sunderland got away with one as Loovens completely missed the ball as he attempted to clear the ball, fortunately, Kevin Csoboth’s effort flew over the bar.
Watmore had the best chance of the match as he was sent clean through on goal following a superb ball by Embleton, however his effort crashed off the bar, Sammut attempted to follow it in but couldn’t get enough on it as it was gathered by the keeper.
Since the change introducing Watmore and co, Sunderland were looking the better side and in were the more likely to get the winner. Jack Ross had clearly told his team to press high and it was working.
Lee Burge made a fantastic save to deny David Tavares who was nicely slipped through on goal, although it wouldn’t have counted due to the linesman’s offside flag.
As the game came to a close the travelling Sunderland fans were in fine voice and a credit to the fans who have made the journey to Portugal.
Sunderland: Burge, Baldwin, Willis (Loovens 45), Ozturk (Flanagan 68), C McLaughlin (O’Nien 45), Gooch (Hume 68), Leadbitter (Sammut 45), Robson (McGeouch 68), Maguire (Embleton 68), Grigg (Kimpioka 45), Wyke (Watmore 68). Subs not used: J McLaughlin, Diamond, Patterson.
Full Time: Benfica B 0-0 Sunderland
ALS Man of The Match: Elliot Embleton