By Kate Smith at the Suwon Stadium
Martin O'Neill watched his team succumb to a tenacious Seongnam side in their Peace Cup game at the Suwon World Cup Stadium.
A first half Everton Santos goal was enough to secure the victory for the K-League outfit, who are already mid-way through their season.
The midfielder was in impressive form throughout the game and his 30th minute strike was a fair reward for such a man of the match display.
After a number of half-chances earlier in the game the midfielder made no mistake and coolly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet on the half hour mark.
The Black Cats fielded a strong side, with David Meyler being named in the line-up, getting only his second start under O'Neill.
Titus Bramble and Michael Turner were paired at the back with Wes Brown slotting in at right-back.
Jack Colback started the game at left-back with Meyler partnering captain Lee Cattermole in the centre of the park.
Striker duties were handed to Fraizer Campbell and Connor Wickham, whilst Mignolet, the only senior goalkeeper on the trip, was between the sticks.
As expected, Seongnam started the brighter of the two teams.
Sunderland went into the clash after just for training sessions; in comparison the highly-rated Korean side have played 21 league games already and sit 10th in the K-League.
Playing conditions were also in favour of the home side, with Seongnam regularly competing in temperatures around the 28 degree mark and 90% humidity.
A number of early chances fell to Shin Tae Young's side, with Santos and Javier Reina causing Sunderland great problems up front.
Kieran Richardson went close for Sunderland 15 minutes into the game, he had a shot from six yards out but was denied by the post, a theme that would recur on a number of occasions throughout the game.
Despite Sunderland being buoyed by that effort, Seongnam regained control.
David Meyler and Craig Gardner had blocked the striker's previous efforts but Santos made no mistake on the half hour mark to put Seongnam in front.
The deadly duo of Santos and Reina continued to terrorise Sunderland's backline throughout the second period.
The Black Cats responded in the 64th minute when Wickham made a defence splitting run and pulled the trigger for his shot to be inches off target and bounce off the post.
Minutes later the spotlight was on Gardner. The midfielder was standing over the ball around 30 yards out with a seven man wall between him at Jeong-San's goal.
The position of the free kick was not too dissimilar to the former Birmingham man's screamer of a shot that he converted at Wigan in the rain last January, unfortunately the outcome was not the same as on that wet night at the DW Stadium.
This time the crossbar intercepted the shot and denied Sunderland for the third time in the game.
As time ebbed away the manager made several changes and introduced a number of the younger members of the squad.
Roarie Deacon and Blair Adams joined the action, before striker Ryan Noble replaced Fraizer Campbell.
However, the most effective substitution of the game was the introduction of new signing Carlos Cuellar.
The Spanish defender player just under half an hour of the clash and had an immediate impact in steadying the Sunderland backline with a calm and assured performance.
Three minutes added at the end of the game were still not enough for Sunderland to grab an equaliser.
Seognam's 1-0 victory over the Black Cats has booked them a place in the Peace Cup Final on Sunday. Meanwhile, Sunderland will play the runner-up of the FC Groningen and Hamburg tie, which takes place tomorrow, to compete for third place in the tournament.
Seongnam: Jeong San, Yun Youngsum, Lin Jongeun, Park Jimpo (C) Namgung Woong, Hong Chul, Kim Sungjoon, Everton Santos, Kym Pyungrae, Javier Arley Reina Calvo, Park Seyoung (Yoon Bitgaram 56)
SAFC: Simon Mignolet, Wes Brown (Blair Adams 72), Titus Bramble (Carlos Cuellar 61), Michael Turner, Jack Colback, David Meyler, Lee Cattermole (C), Craig Gardner, Kieran Richardson (Roarie Deacon 72), Fraizer Campbell (Ryan Noble 79), Connor Wickham.
Subs Not Used: Ben Wilson, Jordan Pickford, John Egan, Louis Laing, Billy Knott, David Vaughan, Adam Reed, Craig Lynch .