Sunderland AFC U21’s (2-1) Athletic Club Bilbao FC U23’s
Sunderland under 21s beat Athletic Club Bilbao after a Martin Smith penalty secured a place in the quarter finals of The Premier League International cup for the Black Cats.
Danny Graham opened the scoring for the Black Cats with a clever shot just outside the six yard box.
Athletic Club hit back just before half time with a well worked goal from Gorka Guruzeta.
The winner came just before the end when Martin Smith converted his penalty.
The home side went into the game top of group D, needing just one point against the Spanish side in order to qualify.
The game began with a scrappy first 10 minutes, with the only real chance coming from the visitors, when striker Inigo Pradera headed just over the bar.
On the thirty minute mark, a pass back towards Sunderland keeper Maksymillian Stryjek, almost found its way into the net, after the ball rolled under the youngsters foot, however it was cleared from danger.
The first big chance of the night came from a free kick edge of the box, when two senior players combined, Patrick van Aanholt brought a save from goalkeeper Unai Simon and striker Danny Graham went close with a scuffed shot that rolled across the line.
However, the deadlock was broken moments later by Graham who finished his chance from 10 yards out.
Gorka did hit back moments before half time, converting his shot into Stryjek’ bottom left corner. The chance came after an accumulation of both good play and poor defending from both teams.
The second half came around still at 1-1, with both teams clearly feeling a win was achievable.
Again the opening moments of the half began with a bunch of hard tackles, resulting in yellow cards for both Smith and Julen Arellano.
The only real chances for either side came from Graham who curled his effort towards the top left corner, but was denied by the Bilbao Keeper and then Inigo Pradera who brought an excellent save from Stryjek.
After some good defending from Sunderland, van Aanholt broke forward and won a penalty for his team.
Smith who was captain for the night, in absence of midfielder Liam Agnew, stepped up and excellently buried his penalty into the bottom right corner of the net.
The game was over and Sunderland were into the quarter finals after an excellent win against a physical Bilbao side.
In his post-match press conference, Andy Welsh was delighted with his team’s performance on the night, and said: ‘’It was a tough game, we had to be organised and compact. We won the game with our desire and effort throughout the 90 minutes.’’
Referee: Mr A Greenwood
Assistant referees: Mr N Hawksby, Mr J Suchecki
4th Official: Mr S Dial