The centre-forward was ruthless in front of goal for a powerful, fast-moving Monaco side, although our own youngsters put on a real brave showing in the Under-19 competition, the group stage of which mirrors the Club’s UEFA Champions League fixtures.
Samuel Shashoua got us deservedly back on level terms in the first period after Cardona’s opener but two further goals from the Monaco hotshot saw the Ligue 1 outfit pull away.
However, Shayon Harrison – one of three over-age players permitted in the squad – got us back into it with a penalty following a foul on the lively Marcus Edwards. The closing stages were particularly open as we chased a leveller but ultimately it was the visitors who secured the victory.
Edwards went on the attack within seconds of kick-off, setting the tone for a determined individual performance, but it was at the other end where the deadlock was broken after seven minutes. Moussa Sylla flashed a volley wide before Cardona put Monaco in front with a deflected shot that left goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman, on his first competitive appearance of the season, helpless.
Edwards and Shashoua couldn’t capitalise on a handful of free-kicks in and around the area but on 25 minutes the latter found a breakthrough as he twisted and turned away from the Monaco defenders inside a crowded 18-yard box before lifting a shot into the top corner from eight yards out.
Our young side, featuring four first year scholars, matched up well to a strong and physical visiting outfit as the half went on but a minute before the break Monaco snatched the lead once more. Kevin Appin’s sweeping diagonal pass found Sylla in space on the left wing and he duly set up Cardona to double his tally from a central position.
Young striker Reo Griffiths turned and fired just wide in the early stages of what turned out to be an open second half. Sylla used his blistering speed to cause us problems on the counter-attack on a handful of occasions but he was found wanting with his final ball. However, he played a key role in Monaco’s third goal on 62 minutes. He did well to get a shot away under pressure from Kyle Walker-Peters with Whiteman equally impressive as he blocked it with his leg. However, the ball pinged around the area and Cardona gleefully swept home to complete his treble.
Cardona raced clean through again a minute later but the advancing Whiteman got enough on the ball to steer it wide after the forward pulled the trigger.
We still looked dangerous in our own attacking duties and after Harrison’s shot was deflected wide, he pulled one back from the penalty spot on 77 minutes following a trip on Edwards by Yannis N’Gakoutou-Yapende.
Two good opportunities to equalise went begging in the last few moments, first when Harrison’s rising shot was saved by goalkeeper Loic Mukinayi Badiashile and then when Edwards dragged wide from 18 yards out in added time.
There was still time for Sylla to go close again for Monaco but the sound of the final whistle soon afterwards saw the spoils taken by the visitors.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“I thought we had very good, very physical, very athletic opponents. We obviously got off to a poor start conceding a goal but I was pleased with the mentality of the players. We were resilient, we never gave in and we kept a very good spirit and morale. It was disappointing to concede the goals in the manner that we did but some of our attacking play was very good.
“I was very proud of some of the first years to come into a game of that magnitude – I was really pleased with their mentality and their application. I thought Marcus Edwards stood out as well with his quality. He constantly tried to make things happen for us and that’s his job. I thought he stayed with it and showed a fantastic mentality.
“There’s a core group in there that won’t give up and if they do lose they’re going to go down fighting. For the younger players especially, that’s a great building block to start their youth careers. At 3-1 down we still thought we’d get the point and we were hoping for three, but sadly at the end their keeper has pulled off a couple of good saves, they’ve got blocks in and then we’ve not quite been able to get the finish. Obviously the game got very open as we were pushing at the end, there were frustrations with a few players but I was really proud of some of the others, especially the younger ones.”
Spurs: Whiteman, Walker-Peters, Hinds, Marsh (Stylianides 75), Eyoma, Walkes, Edwards, Oakley-Boothe, Griffiths (Oteh 84), Harrison (c), Shashoua (Tracey 60). Substitutes (not used): Dinzeyi, Roles, Bennetts, McDermott (GK).
Monaco: Mukinayi Badiashile, N'Gakoutou-Yapende, Serrano, Mbae, Ouedraogo, Muyumba Nkita (c), Appin, Diallo, Cardona (Zerkane 81), Bongiovanni (Enjolras 81), Sylla. Substitutes (not used): Silva, Mohoubi, Kote, Davy, Henin (GK).
Goals: Spurs - Shashoua 25, Harrison 77 (pen); Monaco - Cardona 7, 44, 62.
Yellow cards: Spurs - Walkes 45+1, Marsh 70; Monaco - Diallo 26, Muyumba Nkita 70.
Referee: Andrew Dallas.
We return to the bread and butter of the Under-18 Premier League on Saturday when Norwich City visit us at the Training Centre, kick-off 12noon.