The lure of a Sunderland side potentially lifting silverware drew an impressive crowd to the Stadium of Light last night, 18,317 to be exact.
After a season of toil on home turf, when patience has been tested to the limit and pride battered, this was a chance to look to and hope for a brighter future.
Plenty of these Sunderland Under-23s players have a chance to make it in the game, some may even become senior Black Cats, but manager David Moyes’ caution was vindicated.
No fault of their own, but they were outclassed here.
Those who came may have done so to see the home side, but their overriding memories are likely to be their glimpse at a group of Porto players who will surely grace Europe’s highest stage at some point.
Joris Kayembe, Galeno, Fede Varela. Remember the names.
Playing behind burly centre-forward Andre Pereira, the trio were dazzling, full of invention, pace, incision and remarkable composure.
In truth, they epitomised the gulf in class between the two sides.
Galeno, the Brazilian left-winger, scored a brace. The first was a delicate side foot finish across Max Stryjek into the far post just five minutes in. The second was forceful, emphatic, with the same result.
Having spent the season on loan from Brazilian club Gremio, he put pen to paper on a five-year deal yesterday. It includes a release clause of €40 million. That looks a very wise insurance policy on Porto’s behalf.
Galeno also won a penalty with the score at 1-0. Donald Love, who endured a wretched night after his surprise selection at centre-half, tripped him as he danced clear. Max Stryjek, the unfortunate goalkeeper at no fault on a difficult night, made a good save down to his left.
That penalty, weak and imprecise, was the one error made by Belgian winger Joris Kayembe, a 22-year-old told yesterday that he would graduate to the first-team squad this summer.
He was in party mode. Denver Hume was impressive early on for Sunderland at left-back, flying into tackles and attacking whenever possible, but the sheer quality of Kayembe shone through.
His dribbling was flawless, twisting and turning in the box, escaping a battery of Sunderland defenders to tee up Pereira for the third goal.
Just five minutes into the second half, he deservedly got on the scoresheet, sweeping home for 4-0 after Fernando Fonseca’s cross was only half-cleared.
Substituted midway through the second half, Kayembe drew applause from all sides of the ground. It was a display that will not be forgotten in a hurry.
From Sunderland’s perspective, they simply seemed not quite ready for a team like Porto B, who, it must be remembered, play in Portugal’s second division, and compete strongly at that level.
They will be disappointed with the fifth goal, centre-half Chidozie Awaziem left unmarked at the back post, scoring from a looping header.
There were patches in the game when Sunderland attacked with gusto, even if they were too brief.
Elliot Embleton showed some good presence on the ball in midfield, while Joel Asoro moved to the left wing in the second half and at least stretched the Porto back line.
He found his way to the byline on a few occasions, finding Luke Molyneux with a good cross, but the winger could only volley wide.
Their response after the break was also stirring, Asoro and Lynden Gooch going close before Kayembe’s goal knocked the stuffing out of them.
There will inevitably be disappointment.
Lynden Gooch was picked in the starting XI, but, in an unfamiliar right-wing berth, could not influence the game in the way a Premier League midfielder would hope too. Love’s selection at centre-half was also a surprise and the 22-year-old struggled.
Their time will come again.
Sunderland boss Moyes has, it seems, been right to urge caution with many of these younger players.
They may well become stars, but they need football at a lower level, as this Porto side so clearly demonstrated.
As for the visitors, they celebrated their win by joining hands and sliding in front of their 20 loyal fans who had come to Wearside for a party.
The future for them looks very bright indeed.