Manchester United U21’s were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea U21’s at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening in the final of the Barclays U21 Premier League, despite taking the lead after just 12 minutes. United were the current holders of the trophy after beating Tottenham Hotspur in the final in the competitions inaugural season last year. The United supporters were at Old Trafford in their hoards with more than 13,000 supporters inside the stadium, which is one of the best attendances for a youth match. It was Tom Lawrence who scored a great strike, but Charly Musonda equalised and Lewis Baker put the Blues ahead towards the end of the match.
Chelsea began brightly with Baker making Ben Amos make a decent save within the first five minutes of the match. The midfielder produced another effort on target, but Amos was quick to react, thwarting the Londoners from putting themselves in the driving seat early on. James Wilson took United’s first attempt, but Lawrence was in the way and stopped the shot from causing any problems for the visiting side. Saidy Janko was involved in United’s goal, sprinting down the right, supplying a precise cross that was received by Wilson then passed to Lawrence, who showed his ability by curling his shot past Jamal Blackman.
United only lead the match for 10 minutes with Musonda cutting in from the left burying his low shot past Amos after being given too much space by the United defenders. Musonda provided a pass to John Swift, whose shot was wide of the mark, but Chelsea were beginning to show their class with possession play, threatening United on every attack. Just before the end of the first half, Paddy McNair could have won a penalty for the home side after a challenge by Ola Aina, but nothing was given and looking at it again, it would have been a harsh penalty.
Chelsea started the second half on fire looking for the goal to put them ahead. Amos was threatened, but thwarted the effort by Aina. Ruben Loftus-Cheek set up a good chance for Baker, but his shot was well over the crossbar and rising still. Chelsea were continuing to produce some good chances against Amos, which the United keeper making some fine saves to deny the visiting side. Wilson was replaced by James Weir, with the striker hobbling and clearly not at full fitness. United were struggling to test Blackman, so Joyce hoped the change would give United another dimension of attack.
Islam Feruz and a deflected shot by Isak Ssewankambo shot threatened the visitors before it turned to their advantage. Ben Pearson won the ball but shot too close to the Chelsea shot stopper. Charni Ekangamene had a touch with the ball falling into the path of Baker, who guided his shot past Amos to put Chelsea 2-1 up with eleven minutes remaining. It was going to be an unlucky night for United, but with the remaining time, they did try and make the difference. Michael Keane headed over the bar with United trying to bring a typical late rally to their opposition, who reacted well throughout.
Tyler Blackett replaced Reece James to add a bit more threat on the attack. Josh Harrop replaced the United goalscorer Tom Lawrence, with Joyce looking to replace some tired legs to give his team a chance to equalise. Blackett had an attempt on goal but Blackman made the save. There was just no way past the Chelsea defence for United, who had seen the trophy they won only 12 months ago gal from their grasp into the hands of Chelsea. Warren Joyce’s side did well to adapt this season, with many of the more talented players heading out on loan, with the coach bringing younger players through the ranks, which could give his side some advantage next season.
Manchester United: Amos; Varela, McNair, M.Keane, James (Blackett 82′); Janko, Ekangamene, Pearson, Lawrence (Harrop 86′), A.Pereira; Wilson (Weir 68′) Substitutes Not Used: J.Pereira, Willock
By Paul Bienkowski
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