Sunderland Ladies began their defence of the League Cup with a fine 4-1 victory against a strong Sheffield side who despite the scoreline put up a valiant display in the blistering heat at the Hetton Centre on Sunday.
Rachel Furness and Beth Mead(2) gave Sunderland a commanding lead inside the first 10 minutes before Sheffield reduced the arrears on the stroke of half time. A Natalie Gutteridge strike midway through the second half settled the nerves as Sunderland comfortably negotiated a potentially tricky hurdle.
Sunderland had to work extremely hard in the sweltering heat to overcome the hard working visitors but the result was never in doubt as the Yorkshire side were blasted from the off when the Wearsiders took a three goal lead before seemingly the visitors had managed get of their own half.
After a couple of early efforts on goal by Sunderland winger Sophie Williams, the game burst into life in the third minute as a floated free kick from Greenwell was misjudged by the Sheffield defence This allowed Rachel Furness to control on her chest, and calmly roll the ball past Claire Wallhead and into the net.
Sheffield didnt have time to catch their breath before Sunderland pounced again, with a diagonal ball from Williams, into the path of the on rushing Mead who capitalised on the keepers hesitancy to slot the ball home from inside the 6 yard box.
At last the visitors managed to venture into the oppositions half and began to get a feel for the game, but a swift and decisive counter attack from Sunderland resulted in a simple through ball, which split open the defence and was latched on to by Beth Mead whos blistering pace fired her towards goal. As she side stepped the last defender she showed a cultured finish to fire the ball past the helpless Wallhead. 3-0 to the Lady Black cats without them even moving out of first gear.
The home team continued to threaten with a McDougal free kick just wide of the upright before Mead shot straight at the keeper. Sheffield eventually began to come into the game and passed the ball well as Sunderland understandably took their foot off the gas.
The visitors had their first chance on goal midway through the half with Jodie Michalska ending a good move with a deflected shot that just dropped wide of Helen Aldersons left hand post.
Sheffield enjoyed their best spell of the game as they pressured Sunderland into a rare mistake, as they broke with pace down the right resulting in a dangerous cross which was looped towards the danger area and, under pressure from Michalska, Bannon inadvertently diverted the ball into her own net.
Both managers went into the break with very different team talks to what they had planned after the first 10 minutes.
Sunderland again started the half the better, with Steph Bannon curling a ball into the box which just evaded the lunging Gemma Wilson and clipped the bar.
Ramshaw and Gutteridge both had good chances soon after but were thwarted by the impressive Wallhead in the Sheffield goal.
Sunderland were the more dominant as Sheffield attempted to play keep ball trying to frustrate the home side.
These missed chances were almost costly, as Sunderland became a little complacent and Michalska broke through one on one with the on rushing Alderson who came flying out of her box and collided with the nippy forward as she attempted to go past her.
The home crowd feared the worst, but the referee claiming that Alderson wasnt the last defender, brandished a yellow card, to the dismay of the Sheffield players and staff.
But before Sheffield had a chance to take advantage of the home sides complacency, Sunderland stepped up a gear and reasserted themselves in the best possible way. The always reliable combination of Furness and Williams combined well and the winger pulled the ball back for the on rushing Natalie Gutteridge to fire the ball into the corner of the net, to settle the frustration of the home side.
Brilliant saves from Wallhead prevented Williams and Furness extending their lead, and late on Keira Ramshaw cracked the upright from outside the area, keeping the score down to a respectable four.
Michalska was the only real threat for the south Yorkshire club but it was never enough for the hard working visitors, as the game ended in a comfortable 4-1 victory.
Manager, Mick Mulhern had this to say after the final whistle... We worked extremely hard in the 25 degree heat and that says a lot about the effort the girls put into pre-season. The girls should be pleased with their efforts
Sunderland: Alderson, Christon , Wilson (Salicki 90), Bannon, Greenwell, Williams, McDougal, Furness, Ramshaw, Gutteridge, Mead (Atkinson 78)
The reserves went down 2-1 at home to Blackburn Rovers in their first league game of the 2012/13 season. Laura Hockaday scored the only goal for Sunderland.