A SUNDERLAND team littered with experienced players proved too strong for Stoke City’s Under-21s as the home team ran out comfortable 4-1 winners at the Stadium of Light.
Goals from Titus Bramble, Adam Reed, Ji Dong Won and Fraizier Campbell condemned City to a difficult afternoon on Wearside, although Swiss striker Karim Rossi grabbed a consolation in the dying moments.
The result means the side finish bottom of Group 2, moving them into the Qualification Group after the Christmas break.
The Potters started with skipper Jordan Keane in an unfamiliar right-back role, while Rossi continued up front after scoring in last week’s 3-1 defeat to Southampton.
Sunderland lined up with a number of recognised faces, including first-team front pair Ji and Campbell, while the experienced Bramble and James McFadden also started.
Stoke began with a spring in their step but the hosts had the game’s first opening when McFadden’s reverse ball found Ji, but his shot was cleared off the line by a well-positioned Keane.
The South Korean forward then made some space for himself on the left before hitting a shot that lacked any sort of composure high into the stand.
Lucas Dawson stung the gloves of Ben Wilson on 12 minutes with an excellent drive from 30 yards, the first time the Black Cats’ keeper had been tested in the early stages of the game.
Adam Mitchell then hit a free-kick for the hosts that Daniel Bachmann did well to tip over after it looked destined for the top corner, with the match quickly getting up to pace.
Sunderland were on top, and should’ve scored when Campbell fired his shot straight at Bachmann after being found thanks to a perfectly-weighted through ball from Ji.
On 26 minutes, McFadden’s chipped cross the back post was met by the on-rushing Mitchell, and after his effort was parried behind, Sunderland took the lead.
The resultant corner fell to Bramble on the edge of the area, and his shot took a huge deflection before nestling into the bottom left corner.
The hosts started to monopolise possession and nearly doubled their lead when Liam Marrs made a surging run on 39 minutes before drilling a shot straight at Bachmann.
Two minutes before the break, Campbell missed a clear chance for Sunderland – Ji’s knock-down at the back-post fell to the former Manchester United man a yard from goal, but the presence of Bachmann put
him off and he blazed over.
After half-time, Sunderland captain Reed was presented with an opening after good work from Mitchell, but Immanuel Parry managed to block his attempt at goal.
On 59 minutes, the Black Cats earned the penalty that would eventually double their advantage – Campbell’s turn was too quick for Ben Heneghan, who felled with striker with Reed sending Bachmann the wrong way from the spot.
Ji then could have put the game beyond doubt moments later, but screwed his effort wide after being found by a square ball from the dangerous Campbell.
The forward then finally took one of the chances that fell to him on 67 minutes – McFadden showed superb vision to show him in on goal, and he slid his finish under Bachmann.
Stoke certainly weren’t short of effort but lacked sufficient threat in the final third, and it went from bad to worse for them moments later when Campbell turned home Mitchell’s cross.
Sunderland’s quality shone through, and as the clock ticked on in the second period, the game was becoming increasingly comfortable as it became a case of how many for the home team, especially with the
creative McFadden revelling in his free role.
However, Stoke grabbed an excellent consolation goal in stoppage time when Rossi burst into the box and thrashed a shot past Wilson at his near post.
Stoke City: Bachmann; Keane (c), Heneghan, Parry, Clarkson; Dawson; Richardson, Williams, Musungu; Rossi, Alabi (Nardiello 63).
Sunderland: Wilson; Marrs, Oliver, Bramble, Ferguson (Harrison 90); Gorrin, Reed (c) (Joyce 90); Mitchell, Ji, McFadden; Campbell.