New Mexico United 2 Sunderland 3: How it played out as Cats edge five-goal contest
Sunderland were 3-2 winners in their friendly with New Mexico United on Wednesday night.
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Sunderland overcame a tricky contest and a late comeback in the New Mexico heat to eventually run out 3-2 winners in the second game of their pre-season tour.
16-year-old goalkeeper Matty Young had been forced into some excellent early saves on debut as Tony Mowbray's side struggled to find their feet, but an excellent long-range strike from Pierre Ekwah turned the tide shortly before the break.
Goals from Hemir and Isaac LihadjI either side of the break gave Sunderland a comfortable lead but a deflected effort and a last-minute penalty gave the scoreline what was probably a fairer look on balance.
The Black Cats started the brighter of the two sides, going close when Ekwah broke into the box from deep and rifled an effort over the bar. Minutes later they ought to have been awarded a penalty when Pritchard was tripped in the box, but the referee surprisingly waved play on.
From there it was the hosts who took control, forging a number of good chances as their superior match sharpness began to show in the punishing evening heat. Sunderland stayed level thanks only to a string of superb saves from Young on debut. The first was one he would expect to make, but the second third and were outstanding as he clawed goalbound efforts away low to his left and then high to his right.
From that uncertainty Sunderland began to settle, Pritchard at the heart of all their good work on his first appearance of the tour. Hemir had an effort deflected just wide after two shots from the attacking midfielder flew just over the bar.
As half time approached there appeared to be little danger as Ekwah began to advance towards the New Mexico box, but the midfielder broke the deadlock with a glorious long-range effort, driving it across the goalkeeper and into the top corner. It had been a sedate game but when an ambitious long ball from Ekwah found Ba, he turned the ball back infield to Pritchard and one clever, dipping cross later it was 2-0 courtesy of the head of Hemir.
New Mexico changed their side at the break and though an initial burst of energy put Sunderland under some pressure, the visitors began to take control against a more inexperienced opposition. Pritchard was again the chief creator, sliding in Ba whose effort from a narrow angle was well saved.
A quick free-kick routine then yielded a deserved third for Mowbray's side, with Lihadji able to convert from close range after the goalkeeper did well to block his initial effort.
Sunderland looked to be heading for an emphatic win but were tested late on as the tiredness inevitable began to take its toll.
Young's hopes of a clean sheet were dashed with minutes to play when Milo Garvanian's effort took a wicked deflection off Dan Ballard and looped into the net, before Trai Hume was harsly penalised for a trip in the box with seconds to play. Isaac Zuleta sent Young the wrong way but with no time left to play, Sunderland were able to hold on to the win.
Sunderland XI: Young; Hume, Ballard, Triantis, O'Nien; Neil, Ekwah; Lihadji, Pritchard, Ba; Hemir