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Academy into NextGen semi-finals

Posted on 15 May 2016  - 21:18

Our Academy booked a semi-final date with Ajax after beating Ghanaian side Right to Dream 2-0 in their final group stage match at the NextGen Series in Amsterdam on Sunday (May 15).

Anton Walkes chases the ball against Ajax Cape TownThe players line up ahead of their clash with Ajax Cape TownMarcus Edwards in possession against Right to DreamAnton Walkes battles for the ball against Right to Dream

Having seen off the challenge of PSV on Saturday afternoon, our youngsters suffered a 2-0 reverse against Ajax Cape Town at the start of day two but turned the tables later on to secure the runners-up spot in Group B and a place in the last four.

There we’ll face Ajax on Monday at 12noon local time.

Coach Matt Wells was pleased with the way the players responded to the setback of losing Sunday morning’s match to make a quick return to winning ways.

“It’s been a really good learning curve today,” he said. “We started the first game of the day against Ajax Cape Town extremely brightly but they took the lead. You might say it was a freak goal with the way it went in but we’re demanding high standards individually and collectively so really we needed to do better.

“The frustrating thing after that was that we lost our composure, especially given how well we’d played in the first game on Saturday and the goal shouldn’t have rocked us as much as it did. They then scored again and at 2-0 down it was difficult – we made a couple of changes and got back into the game to some extent but it was nothing compared to the first game against PSV.”

Once again playing 25 minutes each way matches at the Olympic Stadium, we had a big chance in the first couple of minutes against Ajax Cape Town when Kazaiah Sterling went through on goal and tried to lift the ball over keeper Jody February – only for the custodian to make a save.

Leo Thethani broke the deadlock in the fifth minute when he found the net from close to the byline and on 24 minutes it was 2-0 as a ball came in from the right and retreating defender Christian Maghoma got the last touch as it went over the line.

right_instory
Above: Cy Goddard in action against Right to Dream.

“We knew, going into the third game against Right to Dream, that we had to win it and as we’ve done in all our games so far we started extremely brightly,” continued Matt. “The breakthrough didn’t come straight away but what we were most pleased about was the composure and belief from the players. We stuck to our identity, trusted that the chances would come and thankfully they did.

“Filip Lesniak was outstanding on the day and he capped off his performance with the opening goal and similarly Shayon Harrison deserved his goal because he’s worked so hard. We knew that if we won by three goals we’d top the group so we kept going and had a couple of half-chances but overall, for 40 of the 50 minutes against Right to Dream, we were extremely dominant. In the last 10 minutes they put a bit of pressure on but we defended very maturely and it was pleasing to see us bounce back in the manner that we did.”

Collins Tanor hit the post for Right to Dream in the first period but we forged ahead a minute after the interval when Harrison won a header in the box and we made the most of the second ball with Lesniak hitting an unstoppable shot into the net from the edge of the box with his left foot.

Right to Dream hit the woodwork again through Benjamin Lund before Harrison doubled our lead with a neat left-footed finish into the bottom corner five minutes from time following good work by Marcus Edwards.

Shilow Tracey might have added a third as he came in from the right but fired over the top from the angle.

Spurs (v Ajax Cape Town): McDermott, Walker-Peters, Muscatt, Marsh (Lesniak 33), Maghoma, Walkes, Edwards (Harrison 25), Stylianides (Goddard 33), Sterling, Duncan (J Pritchard 25), Tracey (Miller 39).

Spurs (v Right to Dream): Whiteman, Walker-Peters, Muscatt, Lesniak, Maghoma, Walkes, Edwards (Tracey 47), Benyu (Stylianides 47), Harrison (Sterling 47), J Pritchard (Goddard 41), Miller (Duncan 41).

Elsewhere on Sunday, Samuel Shashoua went on as a substitute for England Under-17s in their 1-0 defeat to Spain in the quarter-finals of the European Under-17 Championship in Azerbaijan.

Samuel was introduced midway through the second half, by which time the Young Lions were chasing the game. Jaden Brown was an unused substitute for England.