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Under-21s edged by table-topping City

Spurs 1-2 Manchester City (Premier League 2)

Mon 03 April 2023, 21:00|Tottenham Hotspur

Our Under-21s fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat to league leaders Manchester City after a battling performance at the Lamex Stadium on Monday night.

Kallum Cesay expertly finished off a superb team move to put us ahead on 25 minutes but City found themselves level seven minutes later, Carlos Borges providing the finish after Adedire Mebude saw his shot blocked on the line by Max Robson.

After the break, City were met by an inspired Josh Keeley in between the sticks, who denied the visitors on multiple occasions, but there was nothing our goalkeeper could have done when City captain Shae Charles glanced in substitute Ben Knight’s teasing cross to give them the lead on 65 minutes.

As we piled on the pressure in the closing stages, Cesay had our best chance to level before Jamie Donley's long-range attempt forced a good save from Cieran Slicker but the visitors held on to administer only our second defeat this calendar year.

City looked a threat in the early stages with Mebude forcing two good saves from Keeley, the first parried high at his near post and the second a low drive saved with his feet. Oscar Bobb and Mebude’s pace and direct dribbling caused our defence problems in the final third, with the pair combining well down our left side to open up space for the latter to fire a low cross-come-shot past the post on 15 minutes.

We started to grow into the game and brought our own threat to City’s backline, Nile John seeing his deflected shot go straight at Slicker on 19 minutes before Cesay started and finished a stunning team move to open the score midway through the first half, linking up superbly with Robson and Donley down the right flank before cutting inside the defender and whipping a left-footed shot into the far corner.

Despite all their intricate attacking play at times, the move that led to City’s equaliser was instigated by centre-back Jahmai Simpson-Pusey’s long ball over our defence for an onrushing Borges. The City winger then evaded both Robson and Malachi Fagan-Walcott down our right side and slotted in an unmarked Mebude who neatly dummied around Keeley and George Abbott but saw his shot from six-yards blocked on the line by Robson. As we scrambled to clear, it turned into pinball - with our defenders throwing themselves in front of multiple shots - before it eventually fell to Borges who fired in to draw his side level on 32 minutes.

Just before the break, City’s Kian Breckin squandered a good chance to put the away side ahead before Yago Santiago sent a shot just over the crossbar but it remained all square in an evenly contested first period. The second half began in similar vein to the first with City looking threatening every time they went forward, the dangerous Borges going close to adding to his tally with his left-foot strike flashing past the post four minutes after the restart.

Alonso carved out a brilliant opportunity to put us ahead five minutes later, cutting through the Citizens backline down the left to create space for a shot just inside the box but his attempt was straight at Slicker. At the other end, Keeley’s contribution was immense, keeping us level with two brilliant saves in quick succession - initially producing an acrobatic save to tip over Alex Robertson’s fierce long-range shot on 56 minutes before saving with his feet to deny Mebude a minute later.

City took the lead with less than half an hour remaining, working a corner routine short to Knight who whipped in a brilliant left-footed cross from the right and centre-back Charles glanced his header past a diving Keeley to edge the visitors in front. Going in search of an equaliser, coach Wayne Burnett made a double change - bringing on Roshuan Mathurin and Jaden Williams – and altered the shape with Donley moving wide and Cesay moving centrally. This plan almost paid dividends on 78 minutes, Donley firing a cross from the left into Williams whose lay-off found an onrushing Cesay, who shot agonisingly wide. Donley had a strong effort from 25-yards well-saved by Slicker with eight minutes to play but we were left frustrated as City held on for the win.

'I can’t fault the players’ effort, application and energy but it’s a disappointing result'

Under-21s Coach Wayne Burnett reflected on his side's narrow defeat: “It was a very tough game against a very good City team. I thought at times we matched them with both sides having good chances in a close first half. They scored a very good second goal and we almost found the equaliser on more than one occasion.

“I can’t fault the players’ effort, application and energy but it’s a disappointing result. I was impressed with our togetherness, how we worked as a collective and some of the football we played was good. We were up against a City team with very good players but we matched them at times with our style and identity but just failed to get the draw we deserved.”

Spurs 1-2 Manchester City (Premier League 2)

Spurs: Keeley, Robson (Cassanova 40), Abbott, Fagan-Walcott, Sayers, Cesay, Craig, John (Mathurin 67), Alonso, Donley, Soonsup-Bell (Williams 67). Substitutes (not used): Gunter, Dorrington.

Manchester City: Slicker, Agyemang, Taylor (Knight 45), Charles, Simpson-Pusey (Smith 69), Robertson, Mebude, Breckin, Hamilton (Adam 81), Borges (Heskey 90), Bobb. Substitutes (not used): Grant.

Match data

Goals: Spurs - Cesay 25; Manchester City - Borges 32, Charles 65.

Yellow cards: Manchester City - Robertson 71.

Referee: Ali Ajibola.

Venue: Lamex Stadium, Stevenage.

Weather: Sunny with a gentle breeze, nine degrees.

Attendance: 790.