There was no happy homecoming for Sebastian Larsson in Helsingborgs.
Another game, another turgid performance. Once again rather than being excited about friendly games, looking at who played well, which prospects are coming through and so forth, we're sat in a darkened corner constantly uttering to ourselves that it's only a friendly at it counts for nothing other than fitness.
At some point it has to become about performance though too, however it wasn't to be this weekend against an in-form, but very weakened Helsingborgs side in Sweden...
Several of our international contingent returned to action, including James McClean, John O'Shea and returning to his homeland, Seb Larsson. Kieren Westwood also started in goal ahead of Simon Mignolet. there were still several absentees though, including Ahmed Elmohamady and Stephane Sessegnon who were both with out the neccessary paperwork to get into the country, while David Meyler and Phil Bardsley were either ill or injured.
The home side looked the stronger from the off, with Carlos Cuellar and John O'Shea both doing well to stop Ben Acheampong, before the Ghanaian striker found himself with another opportunity, but Westwood was equal to it.
In an interesting aside, many fans have wondered about the hastily arranged nature of the game with Helsingborgs. Acheampong looked lively throughout, and is currently on trial at Helsingborgs, from Asante Kotoko who we have a partnership with. Acheampong also recently received call up to the Ghanaian national team too, and perhaps he was also having the rule run over by our scouts as well as the Swedish sides.
Back to the action though, and Sunderland found their feet a bit more following the early chances for the home side, with Craig Gardner lashing over as he is wont to do from distance. O'Shea also got him self in the mix firing a lovely ball across goal which Fraizer Campbell couldn't get on the end of.
The only other main action of the half was a relatively weak header from Campbell, caught by Daniel Andersson in the HIF goal.
Changes were made at the break, including the introduction of Connor Wickham, who nearly had the ball in the net with almost his first touch. Some nice interplay with Campbell lead to the 19-year old's shot being blocked by Emil Krafth.
John O'Shea next tried his luck, skimming the top of the crossbar having rose to meet James McClean's left wing corner. The performance of O'Shea was one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise dull game.
The second half was littered with substitutions, and while we introduced our more promising crop of youngsters, Helsingborgs made the changes that mattered, with Alfred Finnbogason sending the ball past Simon Mignolet from 25-yards via the post.
Two minutes later the lead was doubled and the home side were out of sight. May Mahalangu drilling the ball under Mignolet from close range, with little the Belgian could have done about it.
Our pair of Craig's - Gardner and Lynch - both tried their luck from distance as we tried to salvage a little bit of pride, but both went well wide and didn't trouble replacement keeper Andreas Linde, capping another dismal day at the office.
Team (Ratings In Brackets)
Starting XI: Westwood (6), O'Shea (8), Cuellar (6), Bramble (6), Richardson (6), Cattermole (6), Larsson (7), Gardner (5), Colback (6), McClean (6), Campbell (5)
Subs Used: Mignolet (6), Laing (5), Knott (5), Reed (5), Kilgallon (6), Noble (5), Wickham (6), Lynch (5)
Man Of The Match: John O'Shea - Tough once again to pick anyone out, but we'll give O'Shea credit here. Started at right back and got forward well, put in decent crosses and came as close as anyone to opening the scoring. Martin O'Neill might see him more as a central defender, but it's good to know he can still put a shift in at right back when required to do so.
Join us later for Quick Kicks for further reflection on the performance as well as words from O'Neill and stuff like that.