FULL-TIME REPORT: Toronto 1 Sunderland 2

Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe

The curse of the former player doesn’t just haunt Sunderland it seems.

After fears of Jozy Altidore grabbing a predictable goal against Sunderland were erased when the Toronto striker was ruled out through injury beforehand, it was Jermain Defoe who grabbed a double to produce a winning end to the Black Cats’ time in North America.

Defoe, who had earlier missed a sitter, enjoyed the last laugh over the Toronto fans that booed his return to Canada after his acrimonious departure from the MLS side last January.

It at least produced some cheer from a pre-season tour, which has not been chocked full of bright spots on the field for Dick Advocaat.

But despite Defoe’s brace preventing a third successive friendly defeat after Toronto had taken the advantage early in the second half, Sunderland head back to Blighty later today with the same question mark hanging over the upcoming season as when they left for North America.

Who will score and create the goals to keep Sunderland out of another relegation battle?

The £8million capture of Jeremain Lens should help in that regard and it will be intriguing to guage the Dutch international’s potential if and when he features at Doncaster Rovers next week.

But Dick Advocaat needs more in the final third for this Sunderland side to yet another season of toil.

Yes, we know those cliches about this only being pre-season, but in all three of the friendlies on the other side of the Atlantic, Sunderland still look too predictable and stodgy as an attacking force.

At least Advocaat’s side got on the scoresheet against a Toronto side who mastered the art of conveyor belt substitutions, to give the club’s youngsters a chance against Premier League opposition.

But Sunderland are clearly still short of a midfield schemer and probably another striker before this transfer window is done.

Even Defoe’s predatory instincts were off-kilter in the 11th minute after some awful defending from Toronto to Billy Jones’ inswinging cross.

Defoe was left unmarked eight yards out, but he completely miscued his header and it trickled wide of the far post.

Star Toronto striker Giovinco came desperately close to netting what would have been a lovely goal in the 26th minute after getting away from John O’Shea’s to Robbie Findley’s chipped ball over the top.

From the edge of the area, Giovinco hit it first time, but it just cleared the crossbar.

Costel Pantilimon - making his first appearance of pre-season after injury - came to Sunderland’s rescue 10 minutes before the interval after Advocaat’s side were fast asleep from Jonathan Osorio’s free-kick from the right.

It left Findley with a free header four yards out, but his effort was superbly kept out by Pantilimon low to his left.

Moments later, Adam Johnson tried his luck with a beautifully hit volley from 25 yards out, but it was tipped over the bar by Toronto stopper Alex Bono.

Steven Fletcher was unfortunate to be denied by Bono two minutes before the interval after immaculately chesting down Jack Rodwell’s long ball, holding off the defender, only to see his off-balance shot saved by the keeper.

But Toronto spurned another golden opportunity to break the deadlock on the stroke of half-time after Findley went too easily past Jones down the right of Sunderland’s penalty area.

Findley’s low cross was on a plate for Osorio, six yards out, but he directed his shot wide of the far post.

Within a minute of the restart, Toronto did take the lead after an awful error from half-time substitute Adam Matthews.

The right-back produced an excellent tackle to intercept Skylar Thomas’ low cross, but then inexplicably gave it straight to Osorio, 15 yards out, who passed the ball beyond Pantilimon.

But Sunderland pulled level in the 65th minute after Defoe managed to dig the ball out from a clutch of bodies on the edge of the area and hit a low shot which took a wicked deflection off Adam Bouchard and nestled in the bottom corner.

Molham Babouli almost regained the advantage for Toronto immediately, but his shot from 20 yards out was pushed away by Pantilimon.

Yet it was Sunderland who went ahead with their second goal in four minutes when Johnson’s wonderful ball over the top sent Fletcher in behind and he squared for Defoe to tap into the empty net.

It was a poetic end to the North American trip for Defoe, yet there remains that nagging feeling about Sunderland’s goal threat when the games get underway for real.

Toronto: Bendik, Morrow, Perquis, Zavaleta, Jackson, Lovitz, Cheyrou, Warner, Delgado, Giovinco, Findley.

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones (Matthews 46), van Aanholt, O’Shea (Beadling 46), Brown, Larsson (Bridcutt 46), Rodwell (Giaccherini 46), Cattermole, Johnson, Fletcher (Watmore 85), Defoe. Subs not used: Pickford, Buckley.