Milk Cup 2009: Brady fires Reds into the final
Posted by nickogs20 on July 30, 2009
United will go head-to-head with Sheffield United in tomorrow’s Northern Ireland Milk Cup final after overcoming Fenerbahce 2-1 in a tense and incident-packed last four clash at the Ballymena Showgrounds. The Turkish side had the better of the opening exchanges and took the lead through Semih, but the game swung in a dramatic two minute spell at the end of the first half that saw Joshua King equalise for the Reds and Fener defender Okan sent off for handball on the line. Skipper Robbie Brady missed the resulting penalty, but went from villain to hero in the second half as he grabbed the crucial winning goal seven minutes from time to send United into their third successive final.
The big boost for Paul McGuinness heading into the game was the return to the side of Joshua King, who had missed all bar eight minutes of the tournament thus far having picked up an injury early on in the Reds’ first game against County Antrim. The big Norwegian forward looked dangerous whenever his teammates got the ball to him in the first half, but that wasn’t often enough for McGuinness’ liking as Fenerbahce dominated proceedings and forced Sam Johnstone into a number of fine saves. There was nothing Johnstone could do in the 26th minute however, when Semih found himself in yards of space at the far post and beat the big keeper with ease.
The Turks unquestionably deserved their lead and pressed forward in pursuit of doubling it, United really struggling to get their flair players into the game (Ravel Morrison the only one seeing enough of the ball to really look like doing something) and relying on the back four and Johnstone to keep them in the game. That all changed though in two crazy minutes right at the end of the first half, two minutes that turned the game absolutely on its head.
First of all, very much against the run of play, a rare quick counter attack from the Reds presented Will Keane with the chance to level the scores, and while Aykut in the Fener goal made a great stop from the #10, he couldn’t prevent the #9 King following up to head into the empty net. The United players and staff must not have been able to believe their luck and going in at half-time on level terms would have been a huge boost to those in red, but just a minute after the restart and now deep into stoppage time, a chance to take a remarkable half-time lead presented itself.
Keane again was involved, this time reacting first to a loose ball in the Fenerbahce penalty area after Zeki Fryers’s header from a corner had cannoned off the crossbar. The 16 year-old’s shot was all set to cross the line when Okan stuck out a despairing arm, and with the referee well-placed, a United penalty and red card for Okan was the only option. Unfortunately for the Reds, the dream turnaround didn’t quite materialise as Brady spurned the chance to add to his four goals in the tournament so far, firing his spotkick against the bar and away to safety. The half-time whistle was immediately blown and Brady looked inconsolable as the players disappeared down the tunnel for the interval.
Nevertheless, McGuinness will surely have stressed that United were in a much better position than they had been a couple of minutes before the break, and no doubt urged them to capitalise. It was obvious from a very early stage in the second 35 minutes that the Turkish side were going to be more than content to sit back, try and keep United out and either grab a goal on the break or take the tie to penalties, and in fairness they did their job well, the defending champions getting frustrated as their efforts to break down the ten men repeatedly came to nothing.
The frustration saw some tasty tackles fly in, none more so than one from Morrison which was more over-eagerness to make up for a poor touch than anything malicious, but could easily have brought him a second red card of the week. As it was, the referee showed leniency and only flashed a yellow card, but that in itself was enough to rule Morrison out of tomorrow’s game, his second booking in as many days.
That may have been something of a low point for United but it also seemed to finally spark the team into life, and minutes later, just as the game seemed to be destined for a penalty shootout, the Reds made the decisive breakthrough and Brady redeemed himself. Picking the ball up in his usual left wing position, the Irishman moved forward and blasted a dipping shot past Aykut with the help of a slight deflection. His celebrations showed exactly how much it meant to him to get the winner and to atone for his earlier penalty miss.
Fenerbahce heads dropped a bit then, and although they gamely pushed forward to try and get back in it, they only really succeeded in presenting United with chances to really kill the game off, the most clear-cut falling to Michael Ngoo, whose point blank header from six yards out was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Aykut. Ngoo really should have buried it, but it wasn’t to matter as, after a slightly nerve-jangling five minutes of stoppage time, the referee blew the whistle and confirmed the Reds’ place in the final.
United now have the chance to make Milk Cup history when they take on Sheffield United in tomorrow’s final at the Coleraine Showgrounds. McGuinness’ group can become the first team to both win the Premier section four times and to win it in consecutive years, but they will face stiff competition from a Blades team who always give the Reds a tough game in the Premier Academy League. Kick-off is at 8.15pm, right after the Elite section final which will feature Corry Evans, Conor Devlin and Ollie Norwood in action for Northern Ireland. Both games are live on BBC 2 Northern Ireland, via the red button or on the BBC’s Milk Cup microsite.
1. Sam Johnstone
3. Zeki Fryers
4. Sean McGinty
5. Tom Thorpe
6. Ryan Tunnicliffe
7. Ravel Morrison
8. Etzaz Hussain (16. Luke Giverin 70)
9. Joshua King (12. John Cofie 49)
10. Will Keane
11. Robbie Brady (c)
14. Larnell Cole (18. Michael Ngoo 64)
Subs not used
2. Michael Keane
13. James Wren
15. Jesse Lingard
17. Rico Gomes
Scorers: King 35, Brady 63 (Brady missed penalty 35+1)