Sunderland Ladies were crushed 7-0 by Aston Villa in the Continental League Cup at Eppleton CW to round off a difficult week for the club.

The Black Cats were two down inside the first 10 minutes as Laura Blindkilde and then Ramona Petzelburger capitalised on the visitors’ early dominance. Remi Allen’s goal just before half time all but finished the match as a contest but four goals in the second half, including a double from player of the match Alisha Lehmann, compounded a miserable afternoon for Mel Reay’s side.

With key players such as captain Keira Ramshaw and Grace McCatty missing through injury or personal reasons, Reay selected a strong starting XI but could only name four substitutes which included academy graduates Daisy Burt and Grace Ede.

In horrendous conditions at Eppleton, Villa raced into an early lead as Blindkilde combined well with Allen down the right and her mishit cross clattered the far post and bounced into the net. Minutes later, it was two – this time Blindkilde teeing up Petzelburger on the edge of the area who calmly finished beyond Claudia Moan into the bottom corner.

The shellshocked hosts struggled to keep possession and Blindkilde almost claimed her second on the half hour with a powerful swirling effort which Moan did well to tip over the bar. Despite glimpses of goal for Emily Scarr and Abbey Joice, the Super League side controlled the ball for much of the half and extended their lead four minutes from the break. A deep corner hit a Sunderland player in the box and fell at the feet of Allen who bundled into the net from yards out.

As the rain continued to fall heavily, referee Magdena Goldba conducted a pitch inspection at half time but gave the go-ahead to continue after a long deliberation. Villa, in a commanding position and not wanting to make another trip to the North East, continued where they left off as Lehmann’s effort was scrambled off the goal line by Neve Herron and Maz Pacheco fired wide of the upright.

Lehmann scored her side’s fourth with 20 minutes to go as she nodded in Chaney Boye-hlorkah’s pinpoint cross from close range. The Switzerland international, who tormented the Sunderland backline throughout, then claimed another as she broke clear and prodded the ball past the onrushing Moan.

Substitute Boye-hlorkah slotted home Gemma Davison’s pass to make it six for relentless Villa and Allen added a seventh with a minute to go.

However, there were positives for Sunderland: Burt came on for a promising senior debut with fellow Lionesses youth international Ede also impressing in a 25-minute cameo.

The Black Cats will be aiming to get back on track this weekend when they travel to Brighouse Town in the FA Cup third round, before Liverpool return to Wearside in the Conti Cup. A trip to Sheffield United in the league will be Sunderland’s final fixture of 2021 ahead of the winter break.

Sunderland: Moan; Kelly ©, Potts, Herron, Griffiths; McInnes, Joice, Manders (Burt 84’), Scarr (Ede 64’), Farrugia; Blakey.

Subs not used: Cowling, Beer.