Hannover 0 Sunderland 1: Lens stunner hands Cats morale-boosting victory in final friendly

Sunderland scorer Jeremain Lens
Sunderland scorer Jeremain Lens

A maiden Sunderland goal for new signing Jeremain Lens handed the Black Cats victory in the dress rehearsal for the Premier League opener.

Sunderland looked sharper than they had done in their previous friendlies encounters, with Adam Johnson and encouragingly, new signing Younes Kaboul, both producing bright performance in the Hannover heat.

Lens’ goal in the final 20 minutes ensured around 800 travelling Sunderland fans had something to shout about in Germany too after an encounter which typically lacked an abundance of goalmouth action.

But the intriguing aspect of the clash with the Bundesliga outfit was the indications of how Sunderland will line-up for the curtain-raiser at Leicester City next weekend.

New signing Younes Kaboul was preferred to captain John O’Shea alongside Sebastian Coates; prompting question marks over whether the ex-Spurs man will start at the King Power Stadium after just two friendly outings.

How Dick Advocaat dealt with the the absence of the injured Steven Fletcher was less surprising, with the head coach opting for an orthodox 4-3-3, as Jack Rodwell, Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole formed a workmanlike central midfield.

That saw Jermain Defoe used in his favoured central striking role and he had the first sight of goal two minutes in, when he sent a half-volley into the side netting from Lens’ raking pass forwards.

Sunderland then rarely looked troubled, although they almost fell behind in the 25th minute after skipper Cattermole was caught in possession in the centre-circle.

Hannover fed the ball out to the unmarked Edgar Prib on the left-hand side of the area, whose angled drive across goal was smartly tipped around the post by Costel Pantilimon.

Johnson, whose distribution was excellent - as it has been throughout the pre-season, slalomed between two players five minutes later, before sending a perfectly-weighted through-ball for Larsson to chase onto.

But with no alternative options genuinely available, Larsson sent an angled shot across goal a yard wide of the far post from the edge of the box.

Lens was guilty of poor decision-making five minutes after the restart, when Johnson freed the £8million man down the left.

The Dutch international did excellently to barge past midfielder Salif Sane, but then from an impossible angle on the left-hand by-line, he opted to shoot, rather than pull it back, and goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler was able to block.

The stopper had a more meaningful save to make moments later when he had to push away Rodwell’s angled drive from 20 yards which skidded awkwardly in front of him.

But it was Lens who opened the deadlock with 17 minutes to go when he robbed centre-half Salif Sane, and thrashed the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards out, albeit he benefited from the suspect positioning of keeper Zieler.

Hannover came close to levelling with three minutes to go, when substitute Charlison Benschop’s long-range effort was tipped over the top by Pantilimon.

Moments later, the hosts were then given a joke of a penalty from awful referee Bibiana Steinhaus after Benschop jumped onto O’Shea’s back, fell to the turf and was somehow awarded a spot-kick.

But justice was done when Pantilimon saved Benschop’s poor effort, before the Romanian blocked the the follow-up effort from Manuel Schmeidebach.

Sunderland held on to round off their pre-season campaign with only a third friendly win.

Now the real stuff begins.

Hannover: Zieler, Sakai, Schulz, Felipe, Sorg, Sane, Schmiedebach, Klaus, Karaman, Prib, Erdinc.

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones, Kaboul (O’Shea 57), Coates, van Aanholt, Cattermole (Giaccherini 57), Rodwell, Larsson, Johnson, Lens, Defoe. Subs not used: Mannone, Matthews, Bridcutt, Watmore, Graham.