By Scott Taylor

Yan Dhanda was among five debutants as Liverpool U21s suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday. Jerome Sinclair, Connor Randall and Pedro Chirivella were all with the first-team and with captain Cameron Brannagan training with the first team, Michael Beale fielded a young side. Their hard work came to no avail as Michael Ledger’s second-half strike being the difference between the two sides.

Sunderland fielded a fairly strong side which included Patrick Van Aanholt, and the Dutchman bombed forward early on. However, his 2nd minute penalty appeal was turned down. The young Reds found themselves on the back foot, but remained resilient in defence.

On the half hour mark, Sunderland created their next chance of the game, but Charalampos Mavrias fired his effort over Ryan Fulton’s crossbar. Liverpool then grew back into the game and responded just before half-time. Dhanda’s cross came straight back to the forward, but he went close with his shot.

The end-to-end action continued as dangerous duo Lynden Gooch and Mikael Mandron both couldn’t add to their goal tallies with Tom Brewitt and Dan Cleary denying them. After numerous chances in the first half, Sunderland’s persistence paid off early in the second half. Ledger found himself free at the back post and he forced it home from a corner to give the Black Cats the lead.

The U21 Premier League leaders could have made it 2-0 moments later, but Mandron spurned his opportunities. He also rued those missed chances as Liverpool debutant Paulo Alves went close in the 70th minute.

That was to be the last chance for Liverpool, and the Reds had to thank Fulton in the closing stages, as the Scotland U21 international made a superb save to deny Mavrias. The win sees Sunderland stay at the top of the table, having lost just once on 22 matches. Liverpool remain in tenth, having picked up one win this season.

Liverpool XI: Fulton; Whelan (Polgar 87′), Cleary, Brewitt, Hart; Virtue, O’Hanlon; Madger Gomes, Alves (Masterson 75′), Ejaria (Toni Gomes 57′); Dhanda.