Under-19s share spoils with Barcelona
Spurs 1-1 Barcelona (UEFA Youth League)
Wed 03 October 2018, 17:28|Tottenham Hotspur
Rodel Richards' goal on the stroke of half-time saw our Under-19s take a point from Barcelona on matchday two in the UEFA Youth League at Hotspur Way on Wednesday afternoon.
We immediately took the game to the holders with energetic forward pressing but, like in Milan against Inter a fortnight ago, we had to come back from behind to secure a 1-1 draw.
Joan Rojas Castilla broke the deadlock for Barcelona with a header from a free-kick – one of a number of set-pieces we struggled to defend over the 90 minutes – but Richards' leveller was as emphatic as it was deserved.
The second half was a different story for us – our lively possession football which left the Spaniards largely without an answer in the first period replaced by a need to defend solidly. Barcelona occasionally forced us into making mistakes on the ball in our own half but, despite fatigue setting in towards the end, we were able to see out the game.
J'Neil Bennett caused nightmares for Barcelona right-back and skipper Guillem Jaime down our left flank as we make a lively start, but you could sense a need to make it count on the scoreline. Defender Brooklyn Lyons-Foster tried to execute the same near-post header from a corner routine that got him a goal against Wolves in the Under-18 Premier League Cup at the weekend but he couldn't get enough on the ball to steer it goalwards while the unmarked Richards eventually latched onto a cut-back from Bennett but curled wastefully off-target in a real chance for us on 18 minutes.
Sure enough, Barcelona started to make inroads at the other end and left-back Jaden Brown blocked well from Abel Ruiz before the visitors grabbed a 24th-minute opener, Rojas Castilla sending a downward header into the net after Jaime dropped a menacing free-kick right in the danger zone six yards out. We quickly regained control, though, as Paris Maghoma sent a set-piece of his own into the wall before drilling wide on the rebound, while Richards couldn't quite turn a corner spilled by goalkeeper Arnau Tenas in at the near post.
A deserved equaliser materialised on the stroke of half-time as Brown advanced down the left, picked out Jamie Bowden in a deep position in the centre and he fed Richards, who turned in the box and fired high past Tenas.
Maghoma had a penalty appeal waved away and Dilan Markanday couldn’t make the most of an aerial chance in the opening stages of the second period, but Barcelona’s set-pieces were causing us real problems and, in open play, their high press forced us into a couple of loose passes.
That said, we still managed to keep them at bay and their best chance to win the game was of our own making in the 65th minute. Jaime launched a ball into the box from deep, Abel Ruiz was the target but defender TJ Eyoma stole in front of him to get the first contact, only to send it low towards the bottom corner. Thankfully, goalkeeper Brandon Austin reacted instantaneously and tipped it onto the post.
Austin later saved at his near post from Alex Collado and although Phoenix Patterson nearly broke through for us during a period where there were a raft of changes – teams are allowed up to five substitutions each under new rules brought in this season – it was those set-pieces where we looked most vulnerable in the latter stages.
We deserved to get something out of the game and it was a fine strike just before the interval that ensured we did just that. Brown played a crucial role by finding a pocket of space down the side of the Barcelona box on the left before working the ball to Bowden. He did well to pick out Richards and he in turn shook off the frustration of a couple of earlier chances that slipped away from him to rifle high into the net.
“RJ (Richards) has been training well and scoring goals in the Under-18s so he deserved his chance and the way he took his goal is no surprise to me – I see him do it every day in training,” said coach Matt Wells.
Wells admitted he was very disappointed with the manner in which we conceded to Rojas Castilla, but was largely pleased with our overall display in the opening 45 minutes.
“I thought we were outstanding in the first half,” he said. “We were the dominant team and made them react to us. Our movements caused them huge problems and defensively we pressed well with high energy and intelligence so I was really pleased at half-time in terms of the performance, but to have conceded from a set-piece, especially in the manner in which we did, was criminal really. There was no clever movement, a standard delivery and then a free header in the middle of the goal. If we want to get through in this competition, we can’t defend set-pieces in that way.
“The second half was a brilliant examination of our playing habits under both pressure and fatigue. As the game went on, they had a couple of spells in possession so it was a learning curve for the players in terms of if we want to dominate for 90 minutes rather than 55 minutes like in this game.
“Like I said, though, if we want to progress, we need to address the issues we had on set-pieces, especially in the second half. We didn’t look commanding or dominant in any way and we can’t be undone in the way that we were.”
Spurs 1-1 Barcelona (UEFA Youth League)
Spurs: Austin (c), Hinds, Brown (Binks 90+1), Bowden (White 67), Eyoma, Lyons-Foster, Markanday (Patterson 71), Oakley-Boothe (A Shashoua 46), Richards, Maghoma (Roles 90+1), Bennett. Substitutes (not used): Oluwayemi, Cirkin.
Barcelona: Tenas, Jaime (c), Comas (Sola Villalba 76), Rojas Castilla, Martinez Marsa, Sanz Catalan (Gonzalez Iglesias 59), De La Fuente, De Vega (Canton Roman 71), Ruiz, Alex Collado, Mortimer (Fati 71). Substitutes (not used): Tristan Jimenez, Sergi Rosanas, Serrano Bernat.
Goals: Spurs - Richards 45; Barcelona - Rojas Castilla 24.
Yellow cards: Spurs - Bowden 46; Barcelona - Sanz Catalan 7, Alex Collado 68.
Referee: Vilhjalmur Thorarinsson (ISL).
Venue: Hotspur Way, Enfield.
Weather: Light cloud, gentle breeze, 18 degrees.