Milk Cup – Reds reign in the Coleraine rain
Posted by nickogs20 on August 1, 2008
United’s march towards a third Premier Milk Cup title has had something of an air of inevitability about it all week, and so it proved this evening as Paul McGuinness’ side never really had to get out of third gear on their way to a 3-0 win over South Coast Bayern. Three top-quality goals from Oliver Norwood, Nicky Ajose and Federico Macheda were comfortably enough to overcome the plucky but ultimately outclassed Californians at a sodden Coleraine Showgrounds.
United lined-up with the team and formation that has been predominantly responsible for their irresistable form this past week, essentially a 442 with the flexibility to be changed very quickly to a 433 by pushing Nicky Ajose further forward and tucking Norwood into central midfield with skipper Matty James and new recruit Davide Petrucci.
United started brightly and were soon in the ascendancy, Joshua King in particular getting plenty of joy on the right hand side, and they were ahead before the quarter-hour mark. A slightly fortunate freekick was awarded just outside the box (Macheda appeared to be felled by one of his team-mates) and Norwood took full advantage, curling an unstoppable freekick over the wall and inside Bayern keeper Pacheco’s near post without the stopper even moving.
The early lead saw United relax somewhat, maybe a bit too much. The Reds continued to attack promisingly but their passing, perhaps due to the conditions, wasn’t quite up to its usual high standards and the Americans began to pose a threat of their own. Conor Devlin comfortably fielded a couple of goalbound efforts but had to be rescued by Scott Wootton when SCB striker Fitzpatrick lobbed him – the big ex-Liverpool defender bravely put his body on the line to make a last-ditch clearance that saw him clatter into the goalframe.
This was the cue for United to step up the pressure on their opponents’ goal, Norwood and Macheda both being denied themselves by despairing clearances when goals looked a certainty. It looked like the Californians had weathered the storm and would make it to half-time just the one goal in arrears, but Nicky Ajose had other ideas. A Norwood corner was punched clear by Pacheco and was picked up by the lurking Ajose 20 yards out. One touch, a quick look up and a perfectly-measured chip later, the ball nestled in the net and the Reds’ lead was doubled right on the stroke of half-time.
The second half started with the Reds seeking to well and truly put the game beyond their hard-working but limited opposition. The impressive James nearly capped a man of the match display in the centre of midfield with a spectacular long-range goal, being denied only by the woodwork, but his side weren’t to be denied for long. The skipper broke clear down the right wing and red shirts were almost queuing up in the box as he fired across a low centre. Kiko Macheda was first in line and, despite the ball being slightly behind him and there being plenty of time to take a touch, the Italian crashed a powerful close range finish past Pacheco with supreme confidence – his fifth goal of an eye-catching week.
With the game and the trophy in the bag, McGuinness took the opportunity to give Chris Curran, Evandro Brandão and Zeki Fryers the chance to play their part and United understandably eased off somewhat. The Americans were unfortunate not to get a consolation, first when they had a goal incorrectly chalked off for offside and shortly after when Stewart headed a powerful Aboifathi effort off the line with Devlin beaten. The Reds hung on and successfully preserved their clean sheet, giving them the impressive statistics of twenty goals scored and just three against in their five games on the road to Milk Cup glory. The aforementioned James was the best player on the park, but special mention also to Scott Wootton who marshalled the defence superbly, and to Josh King and Nicky Ajose who were a constant threat on the flanks.
Matty James led the team up to collect the trophy and, as is tradition at this tournament, got drenched in milk for his trouble. The 18-man squad celebrated gleefully and well they might – the Reds were comfortably the class of the field all week in the Premier section and will have made a big impression on spectators and management alike. It’s the perfect start to the new season for the Academy and a number of those involved over in NI will have a big part to play over the next 9 months in the Academy League and FA Youth Cup.
1. Conor Devlin
2. Reece Brown
3. Cameron Stewart (16. Zeki Fryers ’66)
4. Matty James (c)
5. Scott Wootton
6. Oliver Norwood
8. Davide Petrucci (12. Jack Dean ’64)
9. Federico Macheda
14. Joshua King (7. Chris Curran ’50)
15. Nicky Ajose (10. Evandro Brandão ’57)
17. Ryan Tunnicliffe
11. Robbie Brady
13. Tim Cooney
18. Nicky Jackson
We’ll attempt to get highlights of the final up at some point tomorrow, as well as a more in-depth review of the week in due course. Keep an eye on the official Milk Cup site for news, pictures and videos.