A Trai Hume header and a freak own goal meant that Sunderland defeated Dundee United 2-0, as pre-season preparations continue to build for the Championship season.
Alex Neil made eight changes from the last friendly against Roma, with Trai Hume, Bailey Wright, Daniel Ballard, Corry Evans, Dan Neil, Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard and Ross Stewart all coming into the side.
The only three players to keep their places were Anthony Patterson, Dennis Cirkin and Leon Dajaku, who moved out wide to accommodate Stewart up front. Aji Alese was named on the bench despite only joining the club on Friday afternoon.
Former Sunderland manager Jack Ross was in the Dundee United hotseat for the first time, but new signing Steven Fletcher was completely omitted from the matchday squad against his former club.
Ross Stewart kicked off, with the Lads playing with a vocal Sunderland support behind them.
Both teams pressed well, but not a lot happened in terms of chance creation. After six minutes Anthony Patterson got the ball stuck under his feet, but was able to clear his lines under pressure from United.
Sunderland’s first clear-cut chance came a few minutes later, with some good footwork from Neil. He beat his man twice on the left wing and found Stewart, but the striker’s header went inches past the post.
Sunderland were the better team in the opening 20 minutes, but looked devoid of ideas up front and were struggling to get shots away.
Roberts was at the heart of everything positive for the Black Cats, and drove into the box with Stewart and Dajaku around him. He went for goal himself but his effort was blocked, and Dajaku couldn’t carve out a chance with the rebounded ball.
The biggest chance of the half came after 35 minutes, and Roberts was once again the instigator. He found Stewart in space with a genius through ball, but the shot was saved by Eriksson in goal.
There was no added time and the teams went into the break goalless, but Sunderland seeing a lot more of the ball and looking controlled.
Surprisingly, neither team made any changes at half time. Sunderland were now kicking towards their fans.
Tony Watt did well down the left hand side and found Smith with a cross, but he couldn’t keep his header down and it sailed over the crossbar.
Just a minute later, Sunderland had a great chance through Stewart. He met Pritchard’s cross with a header, but Eriksson matched it with a terrific save getting down low in the bottom right corner.
On 51 minutes Eriksson tried to punch away Dennis Cirkin’s cross, but it only got as far as Trai Hume who was able to score his first Sunderland goal with a header into the empty net. 1-0 Sunderland.
A freak own goal on 62 minutes doubled the Lads’ lead. Charlie Mulgrew didn’t look before smashing a backpass towards his own net. Eriksson was on the edge of his 18-yard box, and the pass had so much power that it evaded the keeper and rolled into the net, much to the delight of the Sunderland supporters who had front-row seats. Game over.
We broke forward straight after kick off, with Roberts getting a shot off. It was deflected and could have gone anywhere, but bounced past the post for a corner.
Alex Neil made two changes on 65 minutes, bringing Jack Diamond on for Ross Stewart and giving Aji Alese a debut in place of Bailey Wright.
Patterson was tested at his near post by Watt, but dealt with it well. There were options in the box, and Watt certainly should have squared it to a teammate.
The game petered out as both sides began to look more and more leggy. Dundee pushed on, but the intense heat in Scotland meant that both sides began to get sloppy and tired.
Jack Diamond broke forward in the dying seconds of the game, but a heavy touch took him wide and the chance was over.
The referee blew his whistle for full time without any added minutes, and Sunderland’s clean sheet was confirmed.
It was a strange game but Sunderland showed lots of positive signs. The press was extremely effective, and the players were able to play their slick passing game as if it was a training exercise. We do still need a couple of quality additions, but everyone is giving the gaffer a good reason to select them for the upcoming Coventry game.