Shayon Harrison struck 10 minutes into the second period to give us a two-goal lead as we took full advantage of the dismissal of Lukas Boeder – the unfortunate Leverkusen defender who had earlier steered Anton Walkes’ effort into his own net – just before the interval.
The front man subsequently missed the chance to stretch our lead when he blasted a penalty kick over the bar, while substitutes Kazaiah Sterling and Jack Roles saw glaring opportunities go by the wayside.
In truth, we never looked in danger of losing our grip on the game as we over-ran the depleted German visitors and when Simon Rhein struck from 20 yards out with almost the last kick, it was nothing more than a consolation.
The result means we’re finally up and running after four attempts in the Under-19 competition, although we remain at the foot of the standings in our group.
Neither side was able to really take the game by the scruff of the neck in the opening exchanges with possession frequently being turned over in the middle of the park.
Harrison headed just off target and then tested goalkeeper Tomasz Kucz from distance, as did Dylan Duncan, while Leverkusen’s Guven Yalcin twice went close around the mid-way point of the first period, first lashing into the side netting and then forcing a good low save from goalkeeper Brandon Austin at his near post. Austin was there again just seconds later, getting a big hand to Tim Handwerker’s piledriver from 30 yards.
It was a tough battle but we finally took the upper hand on 34 minutes when Samuel Shashoua – who buzzed around on the ball throughout – floated a corner over to the back post where Walkes drove the ball in low, his effort deflecting in off Boeder.
Above: Anton Walkes celebrates with Keanan Bennetts.
Harrison twice went close to extending our lead but Boeder’s evening went from bad to worse on 44 minutes when he caught Harrison bursting onto Walkes’ long ball over the top and, as the last defender, was given his marching orders. Harrison guided the resulting free-kick towards the top corner but Kucz made a good stop.
Another Harrison set-piece caused Kucz problems four minutes after the restart but with the extra man we were able to really impose ourselves on the contest and force Leverkusen into a series of defensive errors. Therefore, it was no surprise when Harrison prodded in from close range to double our lead on 55 minutes after Shashoua’s low ball in from the right following a quickly-taken throw-in.
Keanan Bennetts and Tashan Oakley-Boothe both stung the palms of Kucz but we still had to be alert at the back as Rhein stepped through and dragged a shot inches wide on 73 minutes. Six minutes after that we had a chance to move out of sight when Duncan was fouled by Handwerker in the area but Harrison thumped his penalty over the top.
We were indebted to Kyle Walker-Peters for some fine defending six minutes from time as he first got himself in the way of Ufumwen Osawe’s header in the six-yard box and then also managed to block Guven Yalcin’s close-range effort on the follow-up.
Walkes denied Guven Yalcin again a few minutes later with another block while, at the other end, Sterling saw two shots saved by Kucz with the goal at his mercy. Roles, too, might have added his name to the scoresheet but opted to turn inside when well placed to shoot and Leverkusen closed ranks.
There was to be one last breakthrough, but it went to the visitors in the final one of four additional minutes as Rhein drilled low into the net from 20 yards out.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“I was really pleased with how we played, although I’m still a little bit disappointed in the result because their goalkeeper had a really, really good game and we squandered some chances.
“I’ve got to admit, when we played Leverkusen away from home I was a little bit embarrassed – I didn’t think we represented the academy or even English football very well but today I thought we flipped it around, we were much, much better and I was very proud of the effort and the quality that we showed at times.
“We’ve used the group table in the past as an incentive but this was just about having some respectability and showing people watching on television and around Europe that we do have good players. It was less about the league today and more about gathering some respect and demonstrating what we can do.”
Spurs: Austin, Eyoma (Brown 82), Walker-Peters, Skipp, Tanganga, Walkes (c), Shashoua, Duncan (Roles 88), Harrison, Oakley-Boothe (Sterling 73), Bennetts. Substitutes (not used): Whiteman (GK), Dinzeyi, Tracey, Stylianides.
Bayer Leverkusen: Kucz, Shala, Handwerker, Rhein, Nesseler (c), Boeder, Harenbrock (Abu Hanna 45), Akkaynak, Guven Yalcin, Schreck (Mbay 57), Bednarczyk (Osawe 71). Substitutes (not used): Klaas (GK), Popovic, Ghafourian, Grym.
Goals: Spurs - Boeder (OG) 34, Harrison 55; Bayer Leverkusen – Rhein 90+4.
Yellow cards: Spurs - Eyoma 6, Harrison 68, Bennetts 90+2; Bayer Leverkusen - Handwerker 28, Abu Hanna 80.
Red card: Bayer Leverkusen - Boeder 44.
Referee: Neil Doyle.
We’ll look to continue our recent good run of form in the Under-18 Premier League with a trip to Fulham on Saturday. The lads have taken seven points from a possible nine in their last three games and they’ll undoubtedly be keen to carry that momentum over into the match at the Cottagers’ training ground, kick-off 11am.