Under-18s kick-off at new stadium in style
Spurs 3-1 Southampton (Under-18 Premier League)
Sun 24 March 2019, 17:16|Tottenham Hotspur
Our Under-18s ticked all the boxes and made sure it was a winning start to life at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Unbeaten all season in the southern division of the Under-18 Premier League and battling for the title, our young stars didn’t disappoint on the big occasion, dispatching Southampton 3-1 in what served as the first of two Test Event matches at our new home as we prepare to open it.
Spurred on by almost 30,000 fans, it took just 11 minutes to see the first ever goal at the venue as winger J’Neil Bennett curled home a beauty of a strike from 18 yards out, with midfielder Harvey White converting the first ever penalty 10 minutes later after the lively Dilan Markanday was hauled back in the box.
Southampton pulled one back through Kornelius Hansen shortly after the hour mark but we maintained our control of the contest and Markanday secured a deserved third after White’s shot from distance was parried by goalkeeper Jack Bycroft.
Both sides began the day without players due to international action and injuries but we made the far more positive start and dominated the first half. Captain Armando Shashoua’s header on the stretch went just off-target before the opening goal from Bennett – a sublime strike befitting of the occasion. White picked out the left winger with a pinpoint pass, he cut in-field and bent a shot low around the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner from the edge of the box on his right foot with 11 minutes gone.
Attacking midfielder Markanday was causing the Saints problems with the ball at his feet and after producing a great save from Bycroft, he won a penalty on 21 minutes as he tricked his way into the box along the byline on the right and was pulled back by James Morris. Set-piece specialist White sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot for 2-0.
Our goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi didn’t see any of the ball for the first quarter of the game but was able to gather when Southampton had their best chance of the first half on 35 minutes. Hansen cut back from the left for Benni Smales-Braithwaite at the near post, but an excellent piece of defending from Brooklyn Lyons-Foster from behind enabled Oluwayemi to collect.
Lyons-Foster and centre-half partner Malachi Walcott superbly dealt with Southampton’s crosses into the box during the second period, while Markanday went close a few minutes after half-time but saw his effort blocked on the line. The Saints did manage to grab a goal back on 62 minutes when Hansen let fly from 22 yards and beat Oluwayemi down to his right, despite the keeper getting his hands to the ball, but although the game had become a bit scrappy we continued to create chances with White bursting through the middle and playing Bennett in behind the defence, only for his shot to creep just the wrong side of the post.
Oluwayemi saved Jack Turner’s snap-shot brilliantly before we killed the game off with our third goal of the afternoon on 77 minutes. White collected the ball centrally, stepped to his left and fired towards goal, keeper Bycroft parried and Markanday was alert to the situation, collecting the loose ball and hitting the back of the net. Substitute Chay Cooper made a late burst but hit the side-netting, while Oluwayemi denied Smales-Braithwaite well at his near post in added time, but victory in our first game at the new stadium was already secured.
Energetic and on the front foot – it was the ideal start from our youngsters and the early breakthrough set the tone for the win.
Bennett was the man who provided the finish, a crisp curling effort from 18 yards out with 11 minutes gone that beat keeper Bycroft at full stretch and nestled into the far corner.
“When I scored, I was just running to the crowd!” smiled the winger. “I heard everyone screaming… it was just amazing, so overwhelming.”
Markanday rounded off the scoring in the second half and he added: “It’s hard to describe, I’m speechless! It was such an incredible feeling. We all knew that Southampton are a very good team and we have to keep pushing to try to win the league. We’ve got games in hand against (leaders) Arsenal and we had to win this game to try to make sure we can stay up there.”
The result leaves us a point behind Arsenal with a game in hand and a superior goal difference. We return to action against Fulham at the Training Centre next Saturday.
John McDermott, our Head of Academy Coaching and Player Development, was joined in the dugout by former midfielder Ryan Mason, who has been shadowing our Academy coaching staff and regularly involved on Under-18 matchdays this term as he works through his coaching badges.
John reflected: “I thought we were comfortable in the first half and played well. Southampton made a couple of changes but I’ve just said to Ryan, you can’t measure the emotional energy that’s been expended today. I thought we needed a second wind – the back four, Skippy (Oliver Skipp), Josh Oluwayemi (goalkeeper) and Dilan scoring the third goal re-energised us. I’m really proud.
“There was pressure and it’s a pressure I’ve tried to hide from the players and the staff. I’ve been here all week speaking to the groundsmen, speaking to the engineers, speaking to the architects and realising how many people have spent so much of their working lives dedicated towards building this stadium. The gaffer’s here and everything he’s done, the Board and Daniel Levy, what he’s done, the amount of his life he’s dedicated to doing this is quite incredible and I just hope everyone was proud that we played our part today.
“It was a surreal occasion, to have the crowd singing when the boys came out, the celebrations of the goals. It was a moment in history. It’s an unbelievable experience and it means some of the players get a taste of what’s possible.”
Reaction on Spurs TV
Spurs 3-1 Southampton (Under-18 Premier League)
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Okedina (Statham 78), Cirkin, Skipp, Walcott, Lyons-Foster, Markanday, White, Clarke (Cooper 71), A Shashoua (c), Bennett (Pochettino 79). Substitutes (not used): Kurylowicz, Thorpe.
Southampton: Bycroft, Ramsay (c), Morris, Watts (Defise 86), Olofunwa, Tchaptchet, Glean (Kpohomouh 46), Jankewitz, Smales-Braithwaite, Turner (Idowu 78), Hansen. Substitutes (not used): Wright, Cluett.
Goals: Spurs – Bennett 11, White 21 (pen), Markanday 77; Southampton – Hansen 62.
Yellow card: Southampton – Jankewitz 81.
Referee: Craig Pullen.
Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Weather: Sunny, gentle breeze, 13 degrees.