A 1-1 draw against Bayer Leverkusen was followed up by a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb – and while those results were not sufficient to see us progress into the tournament finals, our youngsters went down fighting against very tough opponents.
“It’s critical that we become more productive at both ends – that’s the take-home message that we’ve got from this trip,” said John, our Academy Manager.
“This tournament has made it clear that the margins between success and failure are very, very slim.
“It was so tight going into the last match against Dinamo Zagreb that we could have won the group if we won the match by two clear goals and if we didn’t get the win we were out.
“What we must do now is make sure that when we get chances to score, we take them.”
After falling behind in the second half in Sunday’s opener against Bayer Leverkusen, we continued on the front foot in search of an equaliser – Cy Goddard, Daniel Akindayini and Shayon Harrison all going close.
Our pressure finally told right at the end of the match, as Harry Winks ran in to convert Goddard’s cross to secure a 1-1 draw.
“The first goal is really important and the teams over here are very adept at closing the game out,” John said. “We dominated the first half, I was really pleased with the way in which we played, but too many chances went awry again and that’s been symptomatic of how we’ve played in this tournament. But I was really pleased with our character, the equaliser was deserved, and I’m disappointed we didn’t win.”
Our second match of the day against Dinamo Zagreb saw the Croatian side take a 2-0 first half lead but, after Josh Onomah was brought down in the box at the start of the second period, Filip Lesniak scored from the spot to reduce the arrears.
Dinamo Zagreb were then reduced to 10 men, but as we chased an equaliser our opponents seized the initiative and scored twice more to win the match 4-1.
“Our opponents were very good at capitalising on errors when teams were open,” John added. “They were more ruthless – they had seven shots and scored four goals. We were a little bit naive trying to force it in the second half but it was a fantastic experience.”