A frustrating game. To be truthfully honest, this was a match that City should have won at a canter, despite Sevilla's impressive start to the Uefa Youth League campaign marking them out as a team to be cautious of. A combination of their defensive organisation, our own profligacy, the miserable, dreary weather and some strange tactical decisions eventually took the game away from us. It should have been plain sailing. City were, by and large, the better team and controlled possession for extended spells of play. As it was, we only went in 1-0 up at the break. The goal came from Ambrose who bundled home from close range, via his shoulder no less, after a well worked set piece involving Aleix Garcia and Patrick Roberts. The second half was a niggly, scrappy mess and a few changes, notably an odd one that saw Kean Bryan shifted back to fullback, invited Sevilla back into the game. It came as no surprise when they eventually equalised, exploiting some defensive hesitancy between Adarabioyo and Maffeo to put their forward through on goal who fired past Grimshaw.
Despite City's best efforts, there was no late drama to be found and the game petered out long before the referee blew the whistle in what was a rather forgettable 90 minutes. It promised much more too - there was some notable performances. Kean Bryan was excellent. A strong, powerful presence, he looked commanding in the midfield, marshaling the centre of the pitch with a real authority. I've said it a thousand times before, but it's worth repeating. He's a holding midfielder, and a very good one too, not a centre-back. His all round game is wasted in defence - he can pass well, notably picking out Nemane with some great defence splitting through-balls, and he covers a lot of ground, breaking up opposition attacks with an impressive understanding of the game. He could step into professional football now and excel, easily. Alongside Aleix Garcia, who had a good game too, already noticeably better defensively than when he first arrived, he dictated proceedings and it was the breaking up of that partnership that eventually told and invited Sevilla back into the game. Manu Garcia started off brightly before fading, and neither winger had their most effective display. Nemane tried but struggled to get the beating of his man and Roberts lack of game time told, constantly making the wrong decision as he tried to do too much when given the ball. He guilty of wasting a glorious chance after being put through on goal by Manu Garcia that should have put it beyond Sevilla, but his rustiness was understandable.
Ambrose, despite his goal, wasn't quite at his best. That pre-injury form that marked him out as a genuinely exciting player last year has deserted him recently. Understandable given everything, and it will surely come, but he's wasteful at the moment, uncharacteristically so. Typically though, there was no questioning his effort. Defensively it was a relatively competent performance until the changes took their toll, leaving gaps at the back. Oddly, Maffeo was stationed in the middle of defence and the u18s regular, Charlie Oliver, was shunted out to the right, despite nominally being a central defender. Both performed competently however, with Maffeo in particular showing his ever-growing seniority at this level, coolly bringing the ball out from the back. Oliver did well, but he's not a natural out wide and doesn't possess a full-back's natural forward instincts. Adarabioyo was strong and measured and Duhaney had a solid hour before he was replaced, one that should have seen him register an assist, Ambrose poorly heading a gilt-edged chance wide unopposed. Grimshaw had little to do in goal, though there was some hesitant moments with the ball at his feet with the conditions no doubt proving a hindrance.
Faupala's introduction was a strange one - we brought him on the right wing, and given that he's a traditional centre-forward it left the team a little lop-sided, especially seeing as Ambrose was left through the middle - a player that excelled at time's last year in this competition as a right-winger. The much-hyped Spanish wonderkid, Brahim Diaz, finally made his competitive academy debut. Now free of the eligibilty red-tape issues, it was nice to see him make his first appearance, though it wasn't to be a fairy tale introduction at this level. He rarely received the ball, and when he did he was immediately crowded out by several Sevilla players. He needs time, which he will get. Encouragingly his attitude seems fantastic, chasing back and winning a few challenges in his own-half. Not something you always get from prodigiously talented forwards. The third and final change, Kongolo for Garcia, was relatively functional - an attempt at undoing some of the damage that had been caused by shunting Bryan back into defence. It was left late though, and there was no real time for the Dutch youth international to make an impact.
Overall, not the finest of nights at the CFA, but it will happen. Patching and Humphreys, both away on England international duty, were sorely missed and a few players were out of sorts on the night. It still felt avoidable though, and you do wonder if the decision to move Bryan into defence, when he was clearly winning the midfield battle, proved too costly. We were comfortable, not really threatened and strolling towards another deserved three points before the change was made and we gifted them the ball. Unnecessary, but lessons will surely be learned. Next up for the u19s is the return leg in two weeks time - a game that will hopefully be streamed online on UEFA's YouTube channel. Before that the u18s face Middlesbrough on Saturday and the EDS are up against Chelsea on Monday night. Both are away, but i'm holding out hope that at least one will be shown live. If so, i'll post a link over on my twitter.