Dominant City suffer defeat
UEFA Youth League-Quarter Finals
Tuesday 18th March 2014
City: O'Brien, Bossaerts(Celina), Tasende, Facey, Denayer, Glendon(Ambrose), Lopes, Fofana, Coe, Bryan, Bytyqi (Ntcham)
Unused: Albinson (GK), Smith-Brown, Holland, Barker
Goal Scorer: Fofana
The vistors had two shots on goal and scored from both of them to send City out of the Uefa Youth League.
City’s U19s had only won one game in their previous two seasons in Europe’s NextGen Series competition and so the appointment of Patrick Vieira has seen amazing developments forward to see City deservedly in the quarter final of this inaugural UEFA youth competition. However despite being by far the better team and forcing Benfica’s goalkeeper to produce a performance that would make all European scouts take notice.
Seko Fofana’s first half great strike was cancelled out by a great Gonçalo Guedes strike in the second half and a mistake led winner from Estrela.
City surprisingly decided to play this game at Hyde’s Ewen Fields on a pitch that has clearly struggled to maintain it’s consistency throughout a game during this wettest of winters, instead of the Etihad like the U21s had done just over a week earlier. However City had organised free entry and made sure all fans were aware of the game and so the crowd was swelled to over four thousand to help give an atmosphere to spurn the young blues on.
City started the game brightly with most of the forward play coming down the right side with fullback Mathias Bossaerts getting forward well and it was his well struck cross that found Kean Bryan but his strike went over the bar.
The partisan crowd did not have to wait long to see City take a lead that they were threatening to do as they pressured high up the pitch. George Glendon played a ball up to Fofana around the half way line and he turned and powered his way forward and moved inside before firing an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area that beat the keeper Thierry Graça ,who minutes early had shown his quality by getting down well to a Lopes strike ..
City continued to maintain their pressure and search for a second goal the first chance came from Austrian Sinan Bytyqi who cut inside from the left and fired in at the near post but again Graça was alert to get down and smother the shot.
That pressure was nearly City’s undoing in the twenty third minute when Benfica were able to hit the Blues on the break and force Glendon to make a rather last ditch tackle to deny the Portuguese side a clear chance at an equalizer.
City were really knocking on the door for a second but it was that man Graça again with a great double save from a very well struck and disguised free kick from captain Marcos Lopes which understandably he failed to hold and the rebound fell to Devante Cole but he miss-hit fortunatly it fell kindly to Jason Denayer and he powered in but somehow Graça shifted his body quickly enough to get a strong hand to the ball and behind for the corner.
City were again showing the right side was their best avenue to get forward and a cross came in and there was Lopes who shifted the ball out to Kean Bryan who had a clear shot on goal but his composure deserted him as he fired wide of the goal.
I think the Benfica players knew that if City got a second goal it would have been a real uphill battle to get back into this game but while it was still one nil going into the break they could sense they were always in for a chance and City to a certain extent helped play into their hand by collecting the ball deep and not offering any options forward into the midfield and so more and more mistakes were creeping into City’s game as the nerves started to show.
City did get forward at times in the opening minutes of the second half but unlike the first half they were not getting their efforts on target and testing Graça with a direct save.
The first worrying sign for City came in the sixty eighth minute when Guedes manages to get beyond the City defence on the left and then in space fire in a low hard shot across Billy O’Brien in the City goal and it appeared to be heading for the far bottom corner but went inches wide of the far post.
That man Guedes was not to be disappointed however about ten minutes later when he picked the ball up just in City’s half and the City defence backed off just enough for the Benfica player to fire in across O’Brien from about twenty five yards.
City then got their mojo back after the equalizer and showed more determination and urgency to get the ball forward quicker but Kean Bryan again lacked enough composure with his favoured left foot strike that was deflected wide and Devante Cole saw Graça get down well to push his powerful first effort wide from the angle for a corner and then Cole’s strong run and shot beat Graça this time but despite rolling in off the inside of the post or rebounding into a danger area the power off the shot saw it rebound across the goal to safety.
Then the cruellest of fates for the young City stars as they shut off for that split second at the back and that allowed Benfica’s Estrela the space he needed for an easy finish past O’Brien.
City really did show that extra urgency in the final minutes but it was that man Graça who thwarted everything that went anywhere near his goal with some really fantastic saves that had the near capacity crowd gasping and wondering how City had not equalized through Lopes, Ambrose and others.
Clearly despite the initial disappointed from losing the game and making it to the finals in Nyon, Switzerland; to make this big leap forward this season is a tremendous effort from Vieira’s team and the players during this exciting and mainly successful campaign.
Next up for most of this EDS squad is an important double fixture week where the U21s are away to Blackburn Rovers on the Monday before a home fixture against play-off chasing Sunderland on the Friday at the Etihad.
Posted in EDS Match Reports by Gavin Cooper/Andrew Waldon.