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2017/18 – UEFA Youth League – Benfica – Home

2017/18 – UEFA Youth League – Benfica – Away

Manchester United’s Under-19s secured a courageous 2-2 draw with Benfica in the UEFA Youth League, coming from two goals down to earn a point at the Caixa Futebol Campus.

The Reds had previously beaten FC Basel and CSKA Moscow with relative ease, but faced a talented side on matchday three and fell two goals behind to strikes from Nuno Santos and Jose Gomes. Joshua Bohui then pulled one back from the penalty spot, before equalising with a superb solo effort.

There was a long stoppage of play in the sixth minute following a heavy challenge on Ethan Hamilton that left the midfielder needing urgent medical attention. Nicky Butt and his coaching staff were far from happy with the incident and rightly made their feelings known to the referee. Thankfully, Hamilton rose to his feet and, once play resumed, he dragged a low wide of the post from 20 yards.

After a decent spell of pressure for Benfica – and a series of fouls from both sides – the combative Hamilton went close with two more opportunities on 22 and 26 minutes, firstly by volleying a high ball wide of the left post and secondly with a driven shot that deflected out for a corner.

The hosts caused a stir among the watching crowd of around 500 fans, on 37 minutes, when captain Joao Filipe struck a thunderous shot from just inside the box that cannoned off the right post. United goalkeeper Alex Fojticek could only watch it hit the woodwork, due to the ferocity of its flight.

Benfica broke the deadlock shortly before the break when Nuno Santos ran on to an incisive through ball and slotted a composed finish into the bottom corner of the net. George Tanner was booked a few minutes later for a foul and it was a surprise that his was the first yellow card of a feisty half.

Butt made a change at half-time by introducing Nishan Burkart but plans to quickly turn the game around were dealt a blow when Benfica doubled their advantage via a free header from a corner by Jose Gomes.

After a period of few chances, United were handed a lifeline when a penalty was awarded on 69 minutes and Bohui struck the resulting spot-kick into the bottom-left corner with confidence after being impeded inside the area.

With 80 minutes on the clock, Butt was harshly sent to the stand after remonstrating with the referee and the United manager clearly – and justifiably – felt aggrieved by the treatment of his players.

Our spirited youngsters tried their best to equalise throughout the closing stages and, just as Benfica looked set to claim a win, Bohui produced a moment of magic to equalise, dribbling around a handful of defenders on the edge of the penalty area before hooking a low shot into the corner via a post.

UEFA later reported that Indy Boonen was sent off for a second yellow card at the end, despite already being substituted.

It was a superb comeback from United, in testing circumstances, and the upcoming return fixture in Manchester on 31 October at Leigh Sports Village will be a fascinating watch on this evidence.

Manchester United: Fojticek; Warren, R. Williams, O’Connor; Laird, Sang (Burkart 46), Hamilton, Tanner (Garner 70); Boonen (Baars 62), Barlow; Bohui

Substitutes Not Used: Thompson, Dunne, Ercolani, B Williams

2017/18 – UEFA Youth League – CSKA Moscow – Away

Manchester United Under-19s maintained a winning start in Europe on Wednesday afternoon, overcoming a less-than-perfect pitch to beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 and make it two victories from two games in the UEFA Youth League.

Aidan Barlow and Angel Gomes, two of the Reds’ scorers in the opening 4-3 win over FC Basel a fortnight ago, both found the net again but, this time, their team-mate at the other end, goalkeeper Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui, had much less to do behind a defence well-marshalled by captain Tyrell Warren, until CSKA pulled one back late on.

Both of United’s strikes came in the first half, with Barlow providing the breakthrough in the eighth minute, shortly after Gomes had gone agonisingly close to doing the same.

Gomes, whose place in the England Under-17 World Cup squad was confirmed this week, arced a glorious shot against the crossbar after Tom Sang’s floated ball forward from midfield was laid into his path by striker Joshua Bohui. The rattled woodwork was a warning for the hosts that United were up for the task in hand from the first whistle, a warning they failed to heed when Indy Boonen found Barlow inside the box. The latter controlled the pass on his chest before beating Nikolai Zirikov with a crisp finish.

Barlow almost grabbed a second goal when he clipped a shot just wide of the far post but United still only had to wait until the 38th minute to make it 2-0. By then, Moutha-Sebtaoui had been asked to do a brave bit of smothering inside the six-yard box, after CSKA Moscow impressively switched the play from left to right with a ball that drew admiring applause from the several hundred fans in the only stand.

Many of those home supporters were grumbling when Bohui was brought down just outside the area for a free-kick but it was definitely the right call and their chagrin was compounded when Gomes despatched the set-piece into the bottom right-hand corner with Zirikov possibly at fault.

United controlled the second half for long periods, limiting the hosts to a tame volley held by Moutha-Sebtaoui and a chance that Roman Pukhov should have done much better with than head well wide of the target. At the other end, United’s Ethan Laird pushed forward to drill a decent shot across goal and Bohui had some fans on their feet expecting to celebrate a goal with a powerful rising effort into the side-netting.

Suddenly, from a comfortable position, United conceded a last-gasp goal when CSKA substitute Dmitrii Merenchukov swept home from close range but, although the home supporters and their side drew encouragement from this, it was too late – and the Reds had been ultimately too strong – for the scoreline to be overturned.

Manchester United: Moutha-Sebtaoui; Laird, Warren, O’Connor, Kenyon (Tanner 60); Sang, Hamilton; Boonen, Gomes (B. Williams 86), Barlow (Garner 73); Bohui

Substitutes Not Used: Fojticek, Dunne, Ercolani, Galbraith

2017/18 – UEFA Youth League – Basel – Home

Manchester United’s youngsters started the European campaign with victory in a game that contained three penalties, a red card and a real glut of goals in the second half.

It took only five minutes for the Reds to open our UEFA Youth League account for the season as Joshua Bohui’s run created an opening for Aidan Barlow. Although it initially looked like Jozef Pukaj had made the save, the ball looped up in the air and over the line before he could keep it out at the second attempt.

Basel replied in kind with Martin Liechti releasing Afimico Pululu into acres of space and the French forward supplied an impudent lofted finish over Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui as the Belgian keeper advanced from his goal.

Both teams had chances in the remainder of the first half as Angel Gomes had a free-kick deflect off target via Alessandro Stabile before Pululu dragged wide, when shrugging off Indy Boonen, and Daniele Vesco sent a header over the bar.

As the heavens opened in the second period, it also started to rain goals with the fans at Leigh Sports Village enjoying the entertainment. Boonen smuggled in an inviting free-kick by Barlow to get the ball rolling again and United started to turn on the style. Barlow was hugely unlucky with a sweeping drive that cannoned off the upright, from a Gomes pass, and Ethan Hamilton played a one-two with Gomes only to shoot wide.

When Boonen was tripped by Yves Jankowski, Gomes’s penalty sent Pukaj the wrong way to open up a two-goal advantage. It lasted only two minutes however, as Ylber Lokaj rose to power in a header from a corner to quickly reduce the deficit.

The Reds scored another penalty, this time through Bohui, who smashed it home, when Gomes was clumsily up-ended inside the area by Lokaj, only four minutes after the defender had nodded his side back into the game.

To their credit, the visitors continued to make a fight of it and, after Liechti’s free-kick was pushed away by Moutha-Sebtaoui, a soft penalty was awarded when it was unclear whether Bohui or substitute James Garner had even committed the offence. Kaiser drilled in the third successful spot-kick of the match, low and hard past Moutha-Sebtaoui.

Barlow hammered a free-kick wide as the goals, and chances dried up, and United’s hopes of securing three points were boosted when Kaiser was sent off for a second yellow card, a crude knee into the back of Bohui.

Vesco was fortunate to escape a red card of his own for kicking Gomes when already on a booking but Nicky Butt’s men held out comfortably to get Group A off to a good start with a deserved success. Benfica beat CSKA Moscow 5-1 in the other tie in the pool.

Manchester United: Moutha-Sebtaoui; Laird, Warren, O’Connor, Tanner (Kenyon 57); Sang (Garner 63), Hamilton; Boonen, Gomes (Burkart 92), Barlow; Bohui

Substitutes Not Used: Fojticek, Dunne, B. Williams, Baars

copyright: JW