The Whites lined-up with several senior players starting the game. Kiko Casilla started between the sticks while Leif Davis, Helder Costa and Tyler Roberts joined the likes of Joe Gelhardt, Jack Jenkins and Crysencio Summerville who returned to the starting lineup.
Casilla, Davis, Costa and Roberts start for the U23s today. Watch the game live on Twitter! pic.twitter.com/BcceUiAOJO— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 1, 2021
Leeds came out the blocks firing on all cylinders with a fair few chances arriving in the first ten minutes, Helder Costa came closest to scoring in the opening stages as the ball was won on the edge of the Sunderland penalty area by Gelhardt which broke for Costa on the right channel. He cut inside and whipped an excellent shot with his left but it cracked off the far post.
The Whites would take a deserved lead on 16 minutes as Tyler Roberts found Helder Costa with a great switch to the right. Costa slipped the ball through to Gelhardt who was brought down in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Roberts took the spot-kick and sent the keeper the wrong way, slotting it home into the bottom-right corner.
Leeds were the dominant force of the first-half with Sunderland struggling to get a foot on the ball. Joe Gelhardt forced a good save from the Black Cats’ keeper from a Helder Costa cross and Gelhardt remained the primary dangerman for much of the half, but the team had to settle for 1-0 at half-time.
Joe Gelhardt was looking to continue his role as the main man in attack and he almost doubled the lead on 51 minutes from a nice one-two with Sam Greenwood before coming inside from the right. He beat three defenders before getting a shot off, with his low strike fizzing just wide of the far post.
The Leeds youth managed to double their lead on 64 minutes with a brilliant counter led by Jamie Shackleton on the right side who had been released by Gelhardt. His cross just dodged the flying run of Crysencio Summerville and landed at the feet of Niall Huggins in the penalty area. With so much space but so little time, Huggins set himself well before lashing the ball into the top-left corner to put Leeds two goals to the good.
Even the U23s love a counter attack! pic.twitter.com/KbyZ4RFMJy— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 1, 2021
Sunderland decided to turn it on for the last five minutes or so despite Leeds being down to ten men (due to injury) for most of the second half. Kiko Casilla didn’t have much to do but he reacted well when called upon at a poorly defended corner. The rebound was fired back in but was well blocked by Charlie Cresswell.
Sunderland pushed again moments later as a fancy flick inside a crowded penalty area almost snuck between the keeper and defender at the near post, but they managed to pull themselves together and clear the ball.
Leeds managed to see-out a valuable three points at Thorp Arch, with their lead at the top of the table standing at 10 points with 3rd placed Wolves having a game in hand.