Livingston 0-3 Sunderland

Livi rounded off their pre-season campaign with a spirited performance in defeat to a strong Sunderland side at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

Goals from Wahbi Khazri, Joel Asoro and Jeremain Lens sealed the win for Simon Grayson’s team but there was much to be encouraged by in the Lions’ performance against a near-full strength Black Cats side.

David Hopkin made just one change to his side from the defeat to Kilmarnock as Dylan Mackin replaced Josh Mullin and the Lions almost got off to the dream start inside 20 seconds as a ball forward was glanced on by Mackin and Pittman teed up Mullen to drill a low shot just wide.

The visitors were almost let in on three minutes and Neil Alexander had to show quick feet to skip away from Khazri and clear. Sunderland began to dominate and forced a series of corners but the Livi defence held firm only to be undone by a moment of bad luck on 21 minutes as the visitors went ahead.

Craig Halkett’s clearance cannoned off Shaun Byrne’s face and dropped for Lynden Gooch and, although Alexander made a fine stop to deny him, the ball fell to Khazri who cut inside and fired a precise low drive past the Livi keeper for 1-0.

The visitors looked to turn the screw and came close to a second on half an hour when Jack Rodwell curled a 25-yard effort just wide. Up the other end, Danny Mullen tried his luck from even further out but his effort was well blocked by Papy Djilobodji.

Gooch was proving a real menace down the left for Sunderland and more good skill saw him spin away from Halkett and cut the ball for Didier N’Dong who dragged his shot wide.

Livi came close to an equaliser just before the break as Matthew Knox’s dangerous cross was hooked clear by Brendan Galloway before the resulting corner was headed wide by Declan Gallagher to send the visitors in at the break in front.

Each side made one half-time change as Mullin replaced Knox for Livi and Lens replaced Billy Jones for Sunderland. Lens was quickly involved, bursting through the Lions defence but his touch was heavy and Alexander gathered with ease.

Livi broke up the other end and Mullen clipped the ball over the top for Mullin and his volleyed cross was cleared before Raffaele De Vita curled a shot wide from the edge of the box.

Livi were fortunate not to go 2-0 down on the hour when carelessness at the back let Rodwell in and he ran in on goal but saw his low shot saved by Alexander. The resulting corner was met 25 yards out by Darron Gibson and his fierce volley flew just wide.

It was all change for Sunderland soon after as they made 10 changes to their side. Livi made a more modest four as Nikolay Todorov, Dale Carrick, Jackson Longridge and a Trialist replaced Mackin, Mullen, Keaghan Jacobs and Alan Lithgow.

Livi looked to catch the much-changed visitors out and broke forward, Pittman teeing up De Vita but his curling effort lacked power and Max Stryjek saved easily. Carrick got his first sight of goal soon after, wriggling into space before firing in a powerful drive that Stryjek held well.

Three more Livi changes followed soon after as Alexander, Gallagher and Byrne were replaced by Gary Maley, Jack Hamilton and a Trialist. Maley was quickly involved and it was a moment to forget as he fumbled a low free kick into the box and the ball dropped for Asoro to fire home from close range and make it 2-0.

Livi’s final change saw Josh Peters replace De Vita and he teed up the Lions’ final effort of note as he knocked Mullin’s cross down for Pittman who took a touch before sending a dipping volley over the bar.

The final word went to the visitors though and it was a spectacular one at that as Lens found space 30 yards out and arrowed a stunning effort past a helpless Maley into the top corner to round off a comfortable win for the Sky Bet Championship side.

In spite of the scoreline, it was another solid performance from Livi against a side possessing far greater quality than any they will face on league business this season. Attention now turns to the first competitive action of the season against Partick Thistle in the Betfred Cup on Saturday.

Livingston: Alexander (Maley 75), Lithgow, Byrne (Trialist 75), Pittman, Mullen (Todorov 63), Jacobs, Mackin (Carrick 63), Knox (Mullin 46), De Vita (Peters 75), Halkett, Gallagher (Hamilton 75)
Subs not used: Longridge

Sunderland: Mika, Jones (Lens 46), Galloway, Djilobodji, O’Shea, Love, Gibson, Rodwell, Ndong, Khazri, Gooch.
Sunderland [after 60 mins]: 
Stryjek, Ledger, Beadling, Kone, Matthews, Cattermole, Embleton, Honeyman, Lens, Asoro, Maja.
Goals: Khazri (20), Asoro (76), Lens (90)

Referee: Steven Kirkland
HT: 0-1
Match Report: Andy Crawford

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