An interesting, if disappointing, game. Yes, City lost but this felt more like an experiment, a worthy one too. With it effectively being a friendly, despite it being titled as the Manchester Senior Cup final, Vieira took the chance to give several players on the fringes of the EDS first team a runout. There was several changes from the previous match - out went Gunn, Maffeo, Plummer, Evans, Smith-Brown, Garcia and Barker, with only Glendon, Ambrose, Celina and Nemane remaining. In came Billy O'Brien between the sticks. He lined up behind a whole new back four of Sam Tattum on the right, Humphreys and Mathias Bossaerts in the centre, the latter finally returning from a lengthy injury layoff, and James Horsfield on the left. Midfield saw the debut of a new Garcia - Aleix, a £2m signing from Villareal. He joined regulars George Glendon and Bersant Celina in City's usual midfield three. Thierry Ambrose started on the left-wing, Nemane on the right and David Faupala started up top. There was new faces on the bench too. The immensely talented Brahim Diaz, still only sixteen, and yet to play for City's u18s side, was joined by Will Patching and Lukas Nmecha after their fine starts to the u18s campaign.
It wasn't the greatest of starts - barely five minutes on the clock and we went behind. A deep corner was met more or less unchallenged in the middle, and Bolton fired home what was to prove the winning goal. It was a frustrating goal to concede. They nearly doubled the lead too moments later, their forward forcing a smart stop from O'Brien after some hesitance in defence. Slowly but surely City started to grow into the game and their usual, measured possession game started to come to life. Garcia made City's first real chance - making his debut as a deep-lying playmaker, he fed Glendon who bustled into the area before drilling straight at Bolton's keeper. It was a competent, if unspectacular, debut for the new signing from Villareal. He's clearly Spanish - he does everything in his own time and looks very comfortable on the ball, twisting and turning and recycling possession with consummate ease. There was a few misplaced passes but his technical ability is clear. i'll be interested to see how he adapts to English football, and importantly, how he adapts to life in the EDS. His fellow midfielder, Bersant Celina made the next chance for Ambrose, linking brilliantly with his French colleague before a last ditch tackle saw Ambrose's effort diverted over the cross bar. Faupala was guilty of missing two good headed chances too - one in particular from six yards out he should have buried. It was a delightful whipped cross from Nemane, and it deserved better. We should have been level at the break.
The second half saw more of the same. City pressing, Bolton defending. A predictable, familiar pattern. City lacked a little something though - that little bit of ingenuity to break a stubborn back-line. It wouldn't quite happen for Vieira's men, despite their best efforts. Celina went close with a free kick and a late goalmouth scramble saw two good chances go begging, but it wasn't to be. Perhaps a draw may have been fair. A loss felt harsh given the effort at least. There was positives to take from the game, despite the defeat - 16 year old Brahim Diaz made his debut. The pint-sized Spanish forward is a magical little player. He's yet to feature for the u18s given legal red tape, and he's so far been limited to u16s appearances, listed a 'trialist'. The club's intentions are clear - they want to test him at a higher level. It's no coincidence that they used him in this game, the first opportunity they've had legally to use him in an u21s game. They'll fast track him, certainly. And it's not without justification - he scored 5 for the u16s the other day as they ran riot, bagging 10 against Middlesbrough. He took this game in his stride too, bouncing off challenges of players nearly a foot taller than him, darting positively towards goal. A real crowd pleaser in the making. He was joined by fellow debutant, Lukas Nmecha. A sixteen year England youth international, he's been a regular for the u18s this season and he deserved this chance after 3 goals in his opening 4 games. He didn't look out of place, even if he wasn't involved too much, confidently linking play with those around him.
It didn't quite happen for Thierry Ambrose - he worked as valiantly hard as ever, but he was lacking his usual finesse in a frustrating outing. Nemane could have had an assist if it wasn't for Faupala's profligacy. Faupala ran himself into the ground, and he certainly looked more comfortable than he has so far in his first few outings for the EDS, but he would have been disappointed as two gilt-edged chances went astray. Celina was his usual sprightly self, and he was involved in some of our best moments, but it wasn't his sparkling best. He was involved in two of City's best moments though. He created an excellent chance for Ambrose in the first half with some bright, intelligent play, and a wonderful jinking run that took him past two, three challenges in the second half lead to a deflected shot just over the bar from Brahim. Glendon was all action, and he covered the ground well, though he's perhaps suited better to the deeper lying role as opposed to the more advanced one he's been allocated in the previous two games. O'Brien in goal had a quiet game, and he had no chance with their goal. Sam Tattum only lasted thirty minutes as he picked up an injury, which saw Bossaerts shifted over to right-back and Evans introduced at centre-back alongside Humphreys. Both were rarely tested in a game which City dictated play. Horsfield isn't a left-back, and though he was defensively sound, he understandably didn't quite offer the real natural width someone like Angelino offered last year. Not his fault, naturally. The same could have been said for Bossaerts, nominally a centre-back, where he started before being shifted over to right-back. It was a competent first game back for the Belgian youth international.
It's been a mixed start for the EDS so far. The team arguably lacks real cohesion at the moment, and last year's balance has gone - no surprise given the amount of inevitable changes, and it might be a while before the performances begin to come. It's a young squad too. Regulars such as Garcia, Nemane and Humphreys are still all seventeen. It'll take time for this team to gel. There was still lessons to be learned from this result either way. After Iheanacho's first team debut at the weekend, (much deserved too, and I thought he acquitted himself well in what little time he was afforded) it was a welcome surprise to see three new faces with the EDS too. It could have been more if Tattum's injury hadn't put Will Patching's EDS debut on hold - he surely would have been involved had it not been necessary for Evans to be introduced. It was encouraging to see Brahim and Nmecha appear, both looking at ease in unfamiliar surroundings. it was a fascinating little glimpse of what Aleix Garcia might bring to the table too. I suspect we'll see a constant evolving side at this level over the coming months, similarly with the u18s too. It'll be interesting to see the make up of the subsequent Uefa Youth League and FA Youth Cup squads as age rules and limitations, and performances and merit, dictate who will be involved. There will be surprises, as ever. There's no games for the EDS now while the international break is in place, but next up at the CFA is the u18s as they take on Sunderland on Saturday.