Spot-kick strife costs U18s victory
Posted by nickogs20 on October 18, 2008
|Manchester United U18s||2-2||Liverpool U18s|
|Macheda 14, 17||–||Ellison 13|
|–||–||Pepper (pen) 49|
A second half spot-kick converted by Liverpool forced United to settle for a point from a somewhat ill-tempered encounter at Carrington this morning, the referee’s dismissal of three strong penalty appeals leaving Paul McGuinness’ side feeling hard done by not to emerge with all three. Kiko Macheda’s quickfire and superbly-taken brace had earlier cancelled out James Ellison’s opener for the visitors in this contest between two of the early pace-setters in Premier Academy League Group C.
With internationals on the back-burner for the time being and the injury situation continuing to improve, the United side that took the field had a much stronger look about it than in recent weeks – indeed, with the exception of Joe Dudgeon (who sat this one out after returning from injury in the win against Wolves last week) this was probably the Reds’ first-choice XI. Evandro Brandão partnered Kiko Macheda in attack, while skipper Matty James returned to the side after stepping up to the reserves of late. Gary Woods was given the nod in goal.
The game started in a combative and niggly vein that was to last the full ninety minutes, and it was the visitors who drew first blood. Liverpool right-winger David Amoo, a controversial acquisition from Millwall, showed all his raw pace and power to blast past Oliver Gill down the right flank and pull back to the waiting Ellison, whose low finish just eluded Woods.
Were United rocked by this setback? Not exactly. Not sixty seconds had passed before the Reds were back on level terms thanks to the predatory Macheda. Reece Brown and Cameron Stewart combined to play Davide Petrucci in wide on the right and his cross was crisply volleyed home at the back post by his unmarked compatriot.
United weren’t content to just level things up though. Confidence bolstered by the goal, they went looking for another – they only had to wait three minutes. James typically burst through midfield and found Stewart, who looked to thread a ball in behind the Liverpool defence for Macheda to run onto. The winger’s pass seemed to lack the necessary pace, allowing centre-back Wisdom to get back goal-side, but the intended recipient made up for that with his speed of thought, cleverly firing an early shot with little backlift through his marker’s legs, leaving keeper Bouzanis unsighted and helpless as it rolled into the far corner.
Long range efforts from Petrucci and James were well kept out by Liverpool’s Aussie keeper, while Ellison went close down the other end with a header, but the key moment in what remained of the first half came in the last few seconds before half-time. Stewart’s right-wing cross appeared to be knocked away from the danger area by the hands of Ayala, John Terry-style. Not for the last time, the referee saw it differently, blew for a corner and, shortly after, for half-time.
Reece Brown didn’t re-emerge for the second half. A nasty challenge from Ellison that went unpunished had left him hobbling through the final stages of the first period and unable to continue after the break, Robbie Brady taking his place – he took up his usual left-wing role with Cameron Stewart returning to the right-back slot he’s pretty much vacated this season.
Unfortunately for Brady, his first touch contributed indirectly to Liverpool levelling things up. An attack down their right looked to have been snuffed out by Scott Wootton but Brady missed his kick when attempting to clear and the ball fell to ‘Pool captain Adam Pepper. He burst into the box and went down under Wootton’s clumsy and mistimed challenge – the referee pointed to the spot this time, a decision it was hard to argue with. Pepper picked himself up and coolly sent Woods the wrong way – 2-2, game well and truly on.
Except… it wasn’t really. Both sides looked to win the game but the game became ever-scrappier and something of a dour midfield battle with few chances at either end. The scrappy nature of the game was further contributed to by a steady stream of freekicks, with the referee reaching for his yellow card in an attempt to calm things down and get the game under control – Irwin, O’Connor and Pepper all had their names taken on the away side, with Norwood and Brady joining them in the book.
The best chance for United to win the game fell to the guy you’d want it to – Macheda. Unfortunately, the Italian had just a few minutes previously been on the end of a crunching tackle (of somewhat dubious legality) from Pepper and had only just returned to the field after recieving lengthy treatment. The Italian was understandably tentative and clearly nursing an ankle problem, and that led to a vital moment of hesitancy which just prevented him from being perfectly positioned to tap home James’ cross. Macheda did however retrieve the cross, and it was over to the referee to wave away another strong United penalty shout – the striker feinted one way and then the other in a bid to work space for a shot and was duly dumped on the turf by O’Connor, who got nowhere near the ball – no penalty… apparently.
That ‘non-foul’ left Macheda unable to continue, Nicky Ajose replacing him and forming a fresh-legged strike partnership with Joshua King (on for Brandão). The last ten minutes were a bit of a non-event but both of the substitutes came close to stealing the win for United. King first of all narrowly failed to get enough contact on the ball when Bouzanis came and flapped at a Norwood centre and left the goal empty, while Ajose was the subject of yet another moment of spot-kick controversy. The forward cut in from the left and appeared to be chopped down by Irwin with the ball once again not being involved in the equation – the ref pointing to the corner instead of the penalty spot pretty much made it clear this was not to be the Reds’ day.
1. Gary Woods
2. Reece Brown (12. Robbie Brady 46)
3. Oliver Gill
4. Kenny Strickland
5. Scott Wootton
6. Matty James (c)
7. Cameron Stewart
8. Davide Petrucci
9. Evandro Brandão (15. Joshua King 66)
10. Federico Macheda (16. Nicky Ajose 73)
11. Oliver Norwood
Subs not used
13. Conor Devlin
14. Chris Curran
Booked: Norwood, Brady