Cole 38mins & 90mins, Lopes 63mins
Ugwu 12mins, Tanner 29mins
- Match reports
- 10 April 2014 20:59
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc / pics by @vhaydn_mcfc
A dramatic comeback to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in their biggest game of the season so far - City EDS have clearly been learning from their seniors.
Patrick Vieira’s men will take a one-goal advantage to the Madejski Stadium a week on Saturday after their rousing 3-2 win over Reading in the u21 Premier League Cup final first-leg.
While the lead may be far from unassailable and there is still very much a job to do in Berkshire, City gave themselves every chance of lifting the trophy with a performance which proved once again, this team simply never gives up.
The tie had looked to be getting away from them after half an hour when the Blues found themselves two down due to a pair of devastating Reading counter-attacks but they turned it around thanks to a Devante Cole brace and a Marcos Lopes penalty.
It’s the latest chapter of a remarkable season for the club at under-21 level, where they seem to have benefited from a settled group of players going into every game expecting to come out on top.
Since an adverse start to the season where the gameplan was still being acuminated and partnerships were being forged, the EDS have swashbuckled, skirmished and captivated to this late juncture in the campaign when a domestic treble is still within grasp.
A Manchester Senior Cup final against those on other side of the city divide awaits and a league title tilt is still in their own hands despite the 4-3 away at Arsenal on Monday night.
Vieira made two changes from the team that lost that topsy-turvy encounter at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park.
City came from behind to win 2-1 last time the teams met at Reading’s Hogwood Park in February, so revenge would have provided the visitors yet more motivation to claim the first available silverware of the season.
The Royals had upset the odds in the inaugural year of the u21 Premier League Cup, overcoming Arsenal, QPR, Watford and Wolves on their route to the final.
Lying in 18th place in the u21 Premier League, Martin Kuhl’s side came into the game on the back of two wins, a draw and a defeat in their last four games.
Joining the 4,873 fans in attendance at the Etihad on a pleasant Spring evening was the entire City first-team, as well as former Blue Shay Given who had all gone along to show their support.
However, it was the visitors who enjoyed the perfect start to proceedings, scoring against the run of play with a clinical counter-attack after 12 minutes.
Hulking no.9 Gozie Ugwu was unmarked in the middle and on the spot to turn a cross from the left side in with his head.
City recovered from the set-back of the concession and began to dictate the tempo of the game, creating half chances for Lopes, Hiwula and Denayer but the Blues again fell victim to a direct, pacey break from the Royals after they lost the ball on halfway.
They broke three against two and when the ball fell for Craig Tanner he made no mistake, sliding the ball through Ian Lawlor to double their advantage.
But Vieira’s side had been here before in this competition this season.
Against Newcastle in the quarter-final, they found themselves 2-0 down to the Magpies shortly after half-time before launching a rousing comeback to win the game 3-2.
Their task to repeat that feat was made less daunting seven minutes before the break.
This time it was City’s turn to turn defence into attack, as moments after Lawlor made a brilliant save to deny Ugwu his second goal of the game and potentially put the away side out of sight, the Blues reduced the deficit through Cole.
Lopes played a brilliant, outside-of-the-foot pass into the path of the England youth international forward on the right side of the box and Devante did the rest, slamming the ball into the far corner beyond Dan Lincoln’s despairing dive.
After the half-time break Seko Fofana was introduced from the bench and the French midfielder nearly made an immediate impact on 60 minutes with a trademark howitzer from 25 yards which drew a fine save from Lincoln.
It proved to be a reprieve for the visitors as the game’s pivotal moment arrived three minutes later.
Hiwula relentlessly ran down a firm backpass to the visiting goalkeeper and managed to pickpocket him, before showing his intelligence to pull the ball back for Lopes who had an open goal, rather than take on the shot from a next-to-impossible angle.
Reading's Jake Cooper flung out a hand to block his goalbound strike and left the referee with no choice but to award the penalty and give the defender his marching orders.
Lopes took up captain’s responsibility and rolled the ball into the corner of the goal to level up the tie.
Chances fell for Fofana, Ntcham and Bytyqi to score the winning goal in the final 25 minutes but it looked like it would stay 2-2 after a succession of near-misses and excellent saves.
That was until the 90th minute when Cole raced onto a rebound to tap in from a few yards out and bring a beguiled Etihad Stadium to its feet.
City travel to the Madejski Stadium for the return match on Saturday 19 April at 3pm.