U18s: City 2 United 2 – Reds rue missed opportunity as City snatch a point
Posted by nickogs20 on September 26, 2010
September 25th 2010, 11am
Platt Lane, Manchester
|Manchester City U18s||2-2||Manchester United U18s|
|Bunn 2, 80||–||Pogba 23|
Seemingly following the first team’s lead this season, for a third consecutive week United’s U18s let a winning position slip as a late equaliser secured City a 2-2 draw at Platt Lane.
The Blues had taken an early lead through prolific striker Harry Bunn, but United turned the game on its head with goals from Paul Pogba and John Cofie and thoroughly dominated the game for long spells either side of half-time. The Reds’ failure to add a decisive third goal while in the ascendancy always looked like it could be costly though, and so it proved as Bunn grabbed his and City’s second ten minutes from time to earn the hosts a somewhat fortuitous point.
Paul Pogba’s inclusion in the starting XI was the big surprise, the French midfielder having been out since June with a knee injury that was thought likely to keep him out for another couple of months. That was one of five changes to the side that drew at Sheffield United last week, Sam Johnstone, Michael Keane, Michele Fornasier and Will Keane all coming in as Paul McGuinness fielded near enough the strongest side available to him.
The home side came into the game unbeaten, boasting the same record as United so far this season – three wins followed by two draws – and weren’t to be taken lightly, particularly academy football’s form striker Harry Bunn, who had scored seven in his previous five games. Gifting Bunn an almost unmissable opportunity inside the first couple of minutes certainly won’t have been on the Reds’ agenda, but gift him one they did, and it was duly taken. Michael Keane switched off and underhit a pass inside to Fornasier, giving Alex Henshall the chance to intercept and set up the unmarked Bunn for a simple finish.
Understandably shaken, it took a while for the Reds to find their feet, Johnstone being called upon on a couple of occasions to keep the deficit at just one. Gradually the United midfield started to assert their authority on the game however, Ryan Tunnicliffe particularly influential alongside the returning Pogba, and pressure started to build on the City goal. Michael Keane had a shot fly just wide and a low cross fizz across the face of goal without a touch, but the next occasion United found themselves in the Blues box was third time lucky. Tom Thorpe, forward for a set-piece, expertly took down Sean McGinty’s high cross and rolled the ball low across the six-yard box for the lurking Pogba to tap home.
It was a deserved equaliser and United proceeded to control proceedings for the remainder of the half, albeit without overly threatening to take the lead – the only real chance fell to Will Keane, who uncharacteristically swiped at thin air when the ball seemingly fell to him enticingly just ten yards out. If McGuinness’ half-time team-talk stressed the need to be more incisive and turn dominance into goals, it seemed to be well and truly taken onboard – initially at least. Barely five minutes had elapsed in the second half before United were ahead, and it was the Reds’ own prolific centre-forward who struck, John Cofie working space on the edge of the box and firing home from twenty yards for his fifth academy goal of the campaign (and eighth at all levels).
There followed a 20-25 minute spell that almost resembled an attack vs defence training exercise as the visitors poured forward and laid siege to the City goal, the Blues happy to just hack the ball clear and take a breather before the next wave of United attacks arrived. Again there was a paucity of genuine chances being created however, the lack of width going forward for the Reds making things extremely congested on the edge of the opposition box, where their impressive quick passing and clever interplay typically foundered on the sheer mass of bodies blocking their path.
Despite being massively outclassed in terms of possession, City couldn’t help but be encouraged by United’s failure to break them down and started to sense that there might be a way back into the game for them. Indeed, as attack after attack petered out at one end, it started to almost seem inevitable that the Reds would be caught with a sucker punch from one of the increasingly frequent counter-attacks their rivals were putting together, and it was of little surprise when one such move ten minutes from time ended with Bunn, far and away the standout player in blue, bursting past two defenders and firing an unstoppable effort past Johnstone.
United’s response was to surge forward in even greater number in search of the winner their dominance merited, but that almost ended up leading to what would have been the hardest of defeats to swallow. Over-committed in attack, hearts were in mouths in the last couple as minutes as the hattrick-hunting Bunn let fly from distance with a dipping effort that looked destined to sneak under the crossbar until a brilliant intervention from Johnstone, who tipped the ball behind at full-stretch. Both sides fancied their chances of nabbing all three points at this stage but time was against them, referee Bell soon signalling full-time and then brandishing a yellow card as something of a melée formed around him, possibly in the direction of the outstanding Tunnicliffe, who more than anyone deserved to be on a winning side.
A point away at a strong (if relatively unimpressive on the day) City side is far from a bad result and some of the football from United’s youngsters – particularly after the break – was wonderful, so there are plenty of positives to take from this one. Nonetheless, the Reds will doubtless be keen to return to winning ways after three straight draws, starting with the visit of Blackburn Rovers to Carrington next weekend.
1. Sam Johnstone
2. Michael Keane
3. Sean McGinty
4. Michele Fornasier
5. Tom Thorpe (c)
6. Ryan Tunnicliffe
7. Larnell Cole
8. Paul Pogba
9. John Cofie
10. Will Keane
11. Etzaz Hussain
Subs not used
12. Alberto Massacci
13. Liam Jacob
14. Jesse Lingard
15. Tyler Blackett
16. Charni Ekangamene
Ref: M Bell
City: Wood, Coulson (Morrisey), T. Skozgrund, Kennedy, K. Skozgrund, Clowes, Drury, Mappen-Walters, Bunn, Roman, Henshall (Robinson).
Unused subs: King, Richards, Clarke-Adams.