Sunderland 1 United 0: Black Cats ride their luck to end reserves’ winning run
Posted by nickogs20 on March 3, 2009
|Sunderland Reserves||1-0||Manchester United Reserves|
United’s reserve side had performed impressively for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in recent weeks, but their four-game unbeaten run – the most recent three of those victories – was always going to be put sternly to the test against table-topping Sunderland, and so it proved. The Reds started brightly and seemed to be enjoying the rare opportunity to play in a Premier League venue like the Stadium of Light, but Jordan Cook’s goal against the run of play gave the Black Cats the lead just before the break, and Northern Irish ‘keeper Trevor Carson performed heroics to keep Solskjaer’s side at bay and see his team through to a win that was essentially confirmed ten minutes from time when two bookings in the space of as many minutes saw Ritchie de Laet given his marching orders and United reduced to ten men.
Solskjaer made just three changes to the side that beat Manchester City last week, and one of those was forced on him at the last minute – Ben Amos picking up an injury in the warm-up and having to be replaced by Conor Devlin. Otherwise, the only changes were Rodrigo Possebon in for his compatriot Anderson in midfield and James Chester in for Richard Eckersley at centre-half. Chester re-claimed the captain’s armband after finishing his one month loan spell at Peterborough.
Quite how United went into half-time a goal behind will have probably mystified everyone watching. The hosts looked well-organised and dangerous on the counter but the Reds controlled possession and had all the clear-cut chances. The first of those fell to Kiko Macheda inside the first ten minutes, the Italian striker expertly controlling a lofted pass from Lee Martin before turning and curling a shot that Carson just managed to turn behind at full stretch.
It was a sign of things to come, although that shouldn’t have been unexpected – Carson has been almost as much of a nemesis for United reserve and academy forwards in the last couple of years as Brad Friedel has for those in the first team in recent times. The Northern Ireland U21 international was donning his superman cape again at the midway point in the half, producing a fine reflex stop from Ritchie de Laet after a United corner had ricocheted around the area and somehow found its way to the feet of the Belgian defender.
That said, the Reds’ best chance of the half saw Carson powerless to intervene. Unfortunately for United, and luckily for him, there was no need for him to. Zoran Tošić’s scuffed right-wing corner somehow made its way past Carson and the mass of players at the near post and sat up perfectly for Chester at the back stick, no more than 5/6 yards out. Alas, the skipper – somewhat on the stretch to be fair to him – conspired to send his half-volley over the bar.
With all these chances going begging and United not capitalising on the dominance Possebon and Matt James were holding in midfield, there was always the very real risk of the being caught out by a Black Cats’ sucker punch, and five minutes before the break that is exactly what happened. The dangerous-looking Nathan Luscombe took advantage of space down the left and then capitalised when de Laet made a dreadful hash of his attempted tackle, taking himself out of the game and picking up an injury in the process. Luscombe was left with all the time in the world to advance into the penalty area and fire across a fiendishly-directed cross that neither keeper or defence could prevent from reaching the lurking Cook at the far post.
Solskjaer’s message at half-time would have surely been ‘more of the same’ – if his side could keep asserting themselves in the manner they had for the first 45 minutes and if they could keep creating quality chances, it was surely only a matter of time before they got themselves back into the game. Unfortunately, that never quite happened. There was no lack of effort or commitment but the Reds couldn’t recapture control of the game and struggled to fashion genuine chances, more often than not finding themselves frustrated into shooting from distance.
The exception to that came just after the hour mark, where Martin and Danny Drinkwater combined to force Carson into making his best stop of the evening. Martin evaded two defenders down the left before cutting the ball back to Drinkwater, the 18 year-old instinctively controlling the ball with his right foot and immediately letting fly with his left, only being denied a terrific goal by a top-drawer point blank save from you know who.
With the final whistle approaching and frustration coming to the fore amongst the United side, the final result was all but confirmed ten minutes from time as de Laet saw red. The first booking was something of a mystery, the Belgian seemingly finding himself on the recieving end of a foul – you can only assume Ritchie said something out of turn. Whatever the reasoning, a yellow card was forthcoming, and as such there was a certain inevitability about what was going to happen when, just two minutes later, Luscombe’s run into the area was blocked off by a strange, almost head-first tackle by de Laet, who appeared to lose his balance. Clumsy and a little unfortunate certainly, but the referee wasn’t in a lenient mood and swiftly produced yellow and then red, capping a miserable night for both de Laet and, ultimately, his team.
13. Conor Devlin
2. Ritchie de Laet
3. Fábio da Silva
4. Corry Evans
5. James Chester (c)
6. Matt James (16. Robbie Brady 82)
7. Rodrigo Possebon
8. Danny Drinkwater
9. Federico Macheda
10. Lee Martin
11. Zoran Tošić (15. Cameron Stewart 63)
Subs not used
1. Ben Amos
12. Jimmy Derbyshire
14. Oliver Norwood
Booked: de Laet
Sent Off: de Laet