Brave Under-23s lose out to champions Manchester City
Manchester City 4-1 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Fri 30 April 2021, 21:12|Tottenham Hotspur
An intense battle of first v second went the way of clinical Manchester City in the Premier League 2 on Friday evening.
Already confirmed as champions, City took their chances through Tommy Doyle and Ben Knight to open up a 2-0 lead at the break, but a terrific second-half showing from our Under-23 side saw us put the hosts under relentless pressure in a fascinating test of our opponents' resolve to keep playing out from the back.
Indeed, we swarmed all over City in the final third at times but they managed to keep their composure and extended their lead with Liam Delap's tap-in against the run of play. Brooklyn Lyons-Foster pulled one back with a header from a corner mid-way through the second period as we looked a real threat from Dilan Markanday's set-pieces and continued to make a sustained attempt to get back into the game, our excellent play a real testament to the players' character and befitting of our lofty position in the table.
Defender Tobi Omole had a goal disallowed six minutes from the end which could have swung the game in our favour if it had been allowed to stand but as we kept pushing, James McAtee picked us off and made it 4-1 in stoppage time, completing a scorline that looked extremely harsh given our endeavours.
City, who are also our opponents at home on the final day of the season next week, were presented with the Premier League 2 trophy in a ceremony on the pitch after the game. Chelsea's 1-0 win over Blackburn, meanwhile, saw them move into second place, one point above us ahead of the final round of fixtures.
Under-23s Coach Wayne Burnett made two changes from the side that beat Liverpool at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last week, Kacper Kurylowicz making his first Premier League 2 start in goal in place of the injured Josh Oluwayemi and Markanday replacing Nile John. We started on the front foot, striker Rodel Richards snapping at the heels of goalkeeper James Trafford as he calmly distributed sideways passes out to his defenders, but City took a 13th-minute lead when Doyle curled home a free-kick after Jamie Bowden's challenge on Delap.
J'Neil Bennett and Alfie Devine combined on the right to set up Markanday for our best chance of the first period on 17 minutes, but his shot from a central position was deflected just over the bar. Kurylowicz, meanwhile, denied Cole Palmer a couple of times but was beaten for 2-0 on 41 minutes when McAtee slid in Knight and he pinged a shot into the far top corner from the left angle.
Striker Kion Etete was introduced at half-time to add an extra dimension to our attack and after Kurylowicz turned Delap's shot wide at the other end, Bennett and Thorpe went close to getting us off the mark. Etete and Bowden were a constant thorn in City's side as we tried to steal possession high up the pitch, but the hosts were clinical as they added a third goal on 62 minutes, Claudio Gomes squaring inside the area and leaving Kurylowicz stranded at his near post, allowing Delap to steer into the empty net.
We responded four minutes later, though, as Lyons-Foster saw a glancing near-post header from Markanday's corner saved, only to then score from the exact same routine just seconds later after City had scrambled the first effort behind. Bennett curled just wide from the edge of the box, while centre-back Omole turned the ball home on 84 minutes as City struggled to deal with another Markanday corner, only for the referee to disallow it after apparently spotting a foul in the box. Had that goal stood, you'd have fancied us to equalise but as it transpired, McAtee was played in to curl beyond Kurylowicz for 4-1 in stoppage time. We still feverishly pursued another goal in spite of the clock and scoreline being against us, but it wasn't to be our night.
Manchester City 4-1 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Manchester City: Trafford, Gomes, Sandler, Burns, Egan-Riley, Lavia (Robertson 74), Palmer, Doyle (c), Delap, McAtee, Knight (F Nmecha 67). Substitutes (not used): Slicker, Robinson, Gbadebo.
Spurs: Kurylowicz, Lavinier, Cirkin, Thorpe (Pedder 82), Lyons-Foster, Omole, Bennett, Bowden (c), Richards (Etete 46), Markanday, Devine. Substitutes (not used): Maguire, Paskotsi.
Goals: Manchester City - Doyle 13, Knight 41, Delap 62, McAtee 90+1; Spurs - Lyons-Foster 66.
Yellow cards: Manchester City - McAtee 40, Palmer 54, Lavia 61, Robertson 89; Spurs - Bowden 55.
Referee: Martin Woods.
Venue: City Academy Stadium, Manchester.
Weather: Bright, light cloud, gentle breeze, eight degrees.