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Match Reports

Report: Late drama sees Palace Under-23s slip to cruel defeat

22 March 2021

Two last-minute goals saw Sunderland snatch victory in the Premier League 2, consigning Crystal Palace Under-23s to a cruel defeat after dominating for much of the contest.

Summary:

  • Alfie Matthews goes close after Connor Wickham’s wonderful link-up play.
  • Wickham heads just wide from six yards out.
  • Wickham sends Harlem Hale in behind, but his shot flashes just wide.
  • Matthews finds space on the edge of the area, but his shot misses the target.
  • HT: Palace 0-0 Sunderland
  • Wickham meets Reece Hannam’s cross but the header doesn’t trouble the goalkeeper.
  • Ellis Taylor’s solo run and shot provides Sunderland’s first real sight of goal.
  • Jake O’Brien’s powerful header puts Palace in front late on.
  • Matthews sees a penalty saved by Patterson to keep Sunderland in sight.
  • Will Harris rescues a point for the Black Cats with a last-minute equaliser.
  • Harris scores a second in the fourth minute of added time to secure an unlikely three points.
  • FT: Palace 1-2 Sunderland

Spearheaded by Connor Wickham up-front, Palace proved a dangerous attacking unit right from the outset, and created chance after chance – for Sunderland, much of the first-half was spent on the back foot.

The first chance came courtesy of some brilliance from the first-team striker, holding the ball up on the halfway line with his back to goal, before turning and firing a sumptuous ball into the path of Jack Wells-Morrison on the right. The young midfielder’s effort was blocked, before Alfie Matthews volley from the rebound hit a Sunderland defender before bobbling wide. 

Palace continued to threaten, and should have been ahead soon after when Harlem Hale picked out Connor Wickham in the six-yard-box, but his glancing header flashed wide.

Moments later Wickham the roles were reversed, with Wickham pivoting to find Hale in behind. As Anthony Patterson came racing out of the Sunderland goal, Hale tried to wrap his foot around the ball but saw it curl past the far post.

Wickham’s experience was beginning to show, with the centre-forward operating as Palace’s playmaker, at his most effective in teeing up his colleagues. After warming the goalkeeper’s palms with a low volley, he teed up Matthews on the edge of the area but once again the shot missed the target.

The hosts came out for the second-half with no intention of slowing down, unperturbed by their frustration at the scores remaining goalless.

Hale tested the Patterson from the angle, before Reece Hannam found Wickham in the area; his leap was well-timed but the header fell wide.

Perhaps buoyed by Palace’s missed opportunities, Sunderland began to grow into the game the longer the second-half progressed.

After a rare sustained period of possession, they found Ellis Taylor on the right, whose solo run opened up space for their first real sight of goal, a low effort that was always heading wide.

He and Danny Greenfield began to look threatening for visitors, the latter forcing Webber into a smart save down to his right before firing the rebound over the crossbar.

But Palace were still the more dangerous side, and eventually the pressure told – although the breakthrough came from an unlikely source.

Losing his marker from a corner, Jake O’Brien found himself unmarked just six-yards-out, stooping to head home powerfully and give the Eagles the lead. It was an emphatic finish for his first goal in a Palace shirt, hitting the back of the net before the goalkeeper could react.

As Sunderland pushed for an equaliser, Palace broke forward once again, Matthews clearance finding Hale with space in behind. His lay-off found the replacement Victor Akinwale, timing his run well to stay onside, who was fouled as he prepared to pull the trigger; the referee pointed to the spot.

Matthews stepped up, but Patterson got down well to push his penalty away and keep Sunderland in the game.

The importance of the save was highlighted in the final minutes of normal time, as a scrappy phase of play saw the ball fall to Will Harris on the edge of the area. Finding a pocket of space, he fired low beyond Webber to give the visitors an equaliser that few might have anticipated coming.

To their credit, Sunderland’s belief never wavered, and they were proved right in the dying moments. Heading into the fourth minute of added time, Harris once again found space in the area, turning well to volley home and leave the Palace players with their heads in the hands.

Palace: Webber (GK), D. Boateng, Hannam, M. Boateng (Adaramola, 71), O’Brien, Hale, Taylor, Wells-Morrison,  Matthews, Wickham (Akinwale, 71) , Kelly.

Subs: Whitworth (GK), Rich-Baghuelou.

Sunderland: Patterson (GK), Wombwell, Newall, Wilding, Taylor, Almond, Taylor, Hackett, Harris, Greenfield, Wearne.

Subs: Beaumont, Bond, Kelly, Chapman.

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