Credit: Ali Salat

University of Sunderland 5-3 University of Liverpool
Northern Conference Cup Final
Sunday 10th March 2019, 5pm GMT

Team Sunderland’s Futsal team came out on top in a goal-filled final at CitySpace to win the Northern Conference Cup in impressive fashion on Sunday afternoon.

Inside a raucous sports hall, the hosts put in a superbly balanced display to overcome an excellent University of Liverpool side and send the extensive support into raptures at full-time, with goals from Tom Bailey, Lewis McKay and Anas Al-Essa, alongside a Rany Youssef brace, proving the difference.

In a tightly fought contest, it was Sunderland who had taken the initiative from the off. And that, in the end, paid off.

Within a minute – one characterised by home possession – Al-Essa won the ball superbly before using it similarly impressively. He burst through, waited for the goalkeeper to advance and then squared to Bailey who duly found the empty net.

And their momentum kept building. Bailey and Al-Essa both saw long-range efforts palmed away well by the Liverpool goalkeeper in the next four minutes.

The Merseysiders did begin to gain some kind of foothold nonetheless, shown by goalkeeper Ahmed Abdelraouf Hussein being forced to make a flying save from a shot from distance at the other end.

But Sunderland continued to look the stronger. Youssef was denied well by the goalkeeper twice in quick succession in the following moments but it proved third-time lucky when a close-range effort  saw him double the lead in the 14th minute.

Credit: Ali Salat

More home pressure followed, but so did a sucker-punch as Liverpool’s Number 5 fired a stunning right-footed shot from range into the top-right corner when he wasn’t closed down from a short-corner with less than two minutes of the first-half remaining.

Another effort by the visitors flashed narrowly wide of the bottom-left corner soon after but Sunderland saw the remaining seconds out to take a deserved lead into the break.

The second-period continued in a similar vein to the first, with the Wearsiders enjoying the majority of possession even if the game remained an end to end one.

Both goalkeepers were kept inevitably busy and it was to their credit that it wasn’t until the 32nd minute that another goal was scored.

That, again, came through the visitors’ Number 5 who hammered home the rebound to bring the game level after Hussein had made a succession of superb point-blank stops.

Liverpool’s impressive comeback left Sunderland needing to up their intensity levels once again and, roared on by a brilliantly vocal home crowd, they did just that.

Bailey came within inches of regaining the hosts’ advantage when his low attempt from distance rattled the inside of the right-hand post and flashed across the face of goal, but the lead was back in Sunderland’s grasp by the 37th minute.

Credit: Ali Salat

Al-Essa dinked an excellent ball through to Youssef who took it down and provided the finish the pass deserved; firing a low, firm and accurate effort into the bottom-left corner.

That cued what was only the first of three late eruptions of noise inside the hall.

Captain McKay clinically found the top-left corner with a penalty to extend the lead with less than two minutes left on the clock and Al-Essa capped his and his side’s impressive display with a goal of his own moments later, when he played a clever one-two before poking a low-shot beyond the goalkeeper and in.

To their credit, Liverpool kept pushing in search of a route back into the game and, though it only proved a consolation, their Number 3 flicking home coolly from close-range in the final minute was an appropriate way to close out their own performance.

It was Sunderland, however, who came out on top to win the trophy. And with a performance that was as calm and collected as it was fluent and intricate, it was thoroughly deserved.