Sunderland Under-23s were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Liverpool Under-23s on Sunday afternoon.
Sunderland hit the woodwork twice in the second half but couldn’t find a breakthrough and the points were shared.
One huge plus for the Black Cats was the return of Lynden Gooch, who got a solid 60 minutes under his belt as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury.
Rees Greenwood also continued his rehabilitation from injury with a full 90 minutes but there was concern when Joel Asoro was stretchered off in the second half.
Cliff Byrne took responsibility of the Sunderland team following Andy Welch’s departure and made two changes from last week’s win over Cardiff with Max Stryjek replacing James Talbot between the sticks and Gooch coming in for Elliott Embleton.
Sunderland started brightly and with seven minutes on the clock, Gooch collected an Ethan Robson pass to fire an effort which was deflected behind.
A minute later, at the other end, Sheyi Ojo tried his luck with a 25-yard free-kick but the man who has spent time on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers could only force a comfortable save from Stryjek.
Liverpool then settled into the game and became composed on the ball offering Sunderland little opportunity.
Following a quiet period, Liverpool’s Madger Gomes fired an effort from the edge of the penalty area which was deflected behind for a corner. Conor Masterton rose highest to meet the resulting corner but his header looped over the crossbar.
Halfway through the first half, Asoro outmuscled his man to fire an effort which Kamil Grabara saved well, while Ethan Robson’s low drive failed to find the target.
It was certainly a tight affair with chances at both ends and when Matty Virtue slipped a perfectly timed ball into Rhian Brewster, the 17-year-old had a great chance denied by Stryjek.
Following promising build up play, Sunderland worked the ball round to Tom Beadling and he took control before unleashing a shot into the side-netting.
The first half was a tight affair, and the second would be just that too, but it got off to a delayed start as Asoro fell awkwardly and was stretchered off in the 51st minute.
With both sides still looking for an opener, Ethan Robson almost provided it for the hosts just before the hour mark. The midfielder took responsibility for a 25-yard free-kick and curled it towards the top corner but it crashed back off the crossbar with Grabara beaten.
Gomes – an ever-present threat in the Liverpool team – tested Stryjek with a free-kick a few minutes later but the Polish keeper was able to save.
After Andrew Nelson’s ambitious effort failed to find the target, Sunderland substitute Josh Maja almost found an opener as he prodded Greenwood’s low cross towards goal, but Liverpool were able to block and clear.
Little reward was coming from lots of effort and Sunderland were denied by the woodwork once again 15 minutes from time. Substitute Luke Molyneux collected a cross-field pass from Nelson before unleashing a power drive which crashed back off the crossbar.
Both sides pushed for a winner late on but after six minutes of additional time, the points had to be shared.
Full-time: Sunderland U23s 0-0 Liverpool U23s
Sunderland U23s: Stryjek, Josh Robson, Tommy Robson (c), Beadling, Ledger, Brady, Nelson, Ethan Robson, Asoro (Molyneux, 51′), Gooch (Maja, 62′), Greenwood
Unused subs: Hume, Talbot, Wright
Liverpool U23s: Grabara, Whelan, Hart, Masterson, Phillips, Williams, Ojo, Virtue, Brewster, Alves (Tony Gomes, 85’), Madger Gomes
Unused subs: Kelleher, Brewitt, Brimmer, Lewis
Referee: Scott Oldham