Monday, 21 September 2015

UEFA Youth League - City 4-1 Juventus

An encouraging, efficient start. It wasn't glorious, particularly emphatic or anywhere near as good as this team could potentially be, but it was still a performance littered with moments of class and high technique. Juventus of course helped City out with their rather lax approach to discipline, reducing themselves to nine men not long into the second half, but in truth City were the better team even before any players were dismissed. After going behind against the run of play, a defensive mixup saw Grimshaw gift the ball to a Juve forward who promptly lifted the ball over the stranded u18 keeper, City controlled the rest of the game. We were level not long after. After the referee had reduced Juventus to ten men, deservedly so too; Nemane being brought down when he was through on goal left the official with no option, City took advantage. Some good work between Manu Garcia and Patrick Roberts left Aaron Nemane an easy finish, and he gleefully slid in to equalise. Despite some solid pressure and a couple of good chances, Manu Garcia notably spurning one from a brilliant pull back from Roberts, the score remained level until half-time.

City eventually took the lead, and it was a goal to remember. Majestic, Messi-like stuff from Patrick Roberts. The summer signing ran from his own half, jinked past numerous challenges before coolly slotting the ball into the far corner. Glorious, and he wasn't finished there, confidently gliding past Juventus' centre-back in the final minutes to leave Lukas Nmecha with the simple task of a tap-in to make it 4-1. A goal and two assists on his first full appearance of the season. Not bad at all. Before that Will Patching had stretched the lead to 3-1 with a perfectly placed 20 yard effort past the keeper's out-stretched right hand. Both those goals came with minutes left on the clock and they added a welcome sheen to a decent performance. City, in truth, made relatively hard work of the game and if it wasn't for one or two moments of ingenuity the game could have ended up a little closer than it did. Admittedly, they weren't helped by Juventus' understandable decision to totally shut up shop given the numerical advantage, but Vieira would have expected more.

It was a new team however with most having never played alongside each other, so a little indecision is understandable. There was a few surprises within the starting lineup too. Angus Gunn was relegated to the bench, though it later emerged that he was suffering a slight knock, and current u18s keeper Daniel Grimshaw took his place. The back four was as predicted in the earlier preview piece - Maffeo and Duhaney were the full-backs and Adarabioyo and Humphreys marshaled the centre. The Garcias, Manu and Aleix, lined up alongside Rodney Kongolo and up front Aaron Nemane and Patrick Roberts flanked Thierry Ambrose. Roberts was the star man, unquestionably. He's some player. He glides past players for fun, constantly darting from the right side inwards. A real menace and a frightening talent. Not everything came off, but he plays a high risk game and the rewards when it all clicks are simply spell-binding. Surely he'll be involved with the first team sooner rather than later - the upcoming Carling Cup game seems a perfect opportunity.

The Garcias were both neat and tidy in midfield. The new man, Aleix, was a lovely, calm presence in midfield. Pirlo-like distribution and a real classy presence in the heart of midfield. There's question marks over his defensive abilities, and if he is to carry on in the anchorman role, he'll have to improve markedly. He's technically excellent though - as is Manu Garcia. After an indifferent opening to EDS life for the young Spaniard, it was an encouraging performance full of creativity. Another likely to be in and around the first team's squad come the Carling Cup. Kongolo was efficient, if not eye-catching, and he'll likely move to the bench when the suspended Kean Bryan returns. Thierry Ambrose, for all his energy and endeavour, didn't have his greatest day in front of goal, spurning some good opportunities with uncharacteristic hesitancy. Nemane was a livewire, driving from deep over on the left and, as ever, he scored his usual backpost tap-in. Defensively we had little to worry about, and a few sloppy passes aside in the early minutes of the game, the pairing of Humphreys and Adarabioyo dealt with what little they had to do with ease.

Duhaney was impressive. Still only sixteen, the first year scholar didn't look out of place, covering plenty of ground on the left hand flank, nearly scoring too with a deflected effort in the first half. He's an exciting prospect - excellent going forward, but, importantly, he can defend too. As can Pablo Maffeo, and he was as steady as ever. Yet another likely to be involved come Tuesday's trip to Sunderland in the Carling Cup. I felt a little for Grimshaw - the overly watered pitch and a slightly short back-pass caught him off guard a little for their goal and it could have been demoralising. Credit where it's due though, he recovered well and had a solid game. There was encouraging cameos from the subs. U18s Nmecha and Patching both grabbed a goal each, and it was the latter that impressed most. He was an assured, intelligent presence and immediately added an incisiveness to City's play. Nmecha, too, did well getting into several good positions. Marcus Wood came on for a minute or two but had no real time to make an impression. All in all, it was a good start to the UYL and it was without several who will consider them regulars when they're back. Gunn, Boadu, Bryan, Barker to name but a few. Its a campaign that promises a lot and hopefully it'll be two wins from two as Vieira's men travel to Borussia Monchegladbach a week Wednesday.

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