Sunderland U21s were outclassed by a Reading U21s team led by the superb striker Kelvin Ehibmatiomhan, who struck a hat-trick under the watchful eye of the Sunderland hierarchy.
Reading appeared the better team from the kick-off and had a goal to show for it in the 19th minute through Ehibmatiomhan. 14 minutes later, Ehibmatiomhan doubled his tally however Ben Crompton’s first goal for Sunderland in the 41st minute revitalised Sunderland spirits.
Hopes of a comeback for Sunderland were dealt a major blow as leading scorer Max Thompson was sent off only seven minutes after half-time. Ehibmatiomhan all but sealed Reading’s second win in the Premier League Cup 15 minutes from full time.
Despite the poor result, a major positive to be taken away from the game was the impressive 45-minute cameo from Niall Huggins, who had not featured for the first team since March following a serious heel injury.
Sunderland began slowly and were duly punished after relentless pressure from Reading when Ehibmatiomhan picked up the ball on the edge of the box, used his strength and close control to weave through Sunderland defenders before smashing low and hard past Jacob Carney. In the 22nd minute, Thompson received a yellow card for late dangerous challenge on Kian Leavy.
35th minutes in, Hamid Abdel-Salam’s inviting ball from the left wing through the six-yard box found Ehibmatiomhan, who demonstrated poacher’s instinct to slide in at the perfect time. Just before the break, Caden Kelly’s in swinging corner was flicked on towards Crompton at the back post for a simple header.
In the 52nd minute, Thompson lost the ball on the edge of the Reading box and out of frustration cut down Adrian Akande, earning himself a second needless yellow card. Even with one less player, Sunderland continued to push for an equaliser.
This was undone in the 69th minute when Cameron Jessup was deemed to have fouled Mamadi Camara in the box as he ran through on goal. Ehibmatiomhan took the resulting penalty however it only threatened the team bus behind the goal. This clearly did not affect his confidence as only five minutes later he dribbled past Owen Robinson and smashed the roof off the net from 18 yards.
After this, Sunderland looked tired and left huge spaces that Reading exploited to pass around Sunderland and comfortably see out the remainder of the game.
Overall, it was a disappointing result however the endeavour of the players will have certainly pleased Graeme Murty and perhaps it could have been a different result if Max Thompson had not been dismissed so early into the second half.