Youth

FA Youth Cup – Leeds u18s 2-5 City u18s: match report

If there was ever a need for a stark reminder of the quality City have bubbling away at this level, then this was it. It spoke volumes that Leeds weren’t necessarily bad, yet they were still dumped out of the competition after a pretty comprehensive drubbing. The Yorkshire club has rightly gained a good reputation of bringing through some fine academy players over the years, but despite their best efforts, and they really did put in a shift, they simply couldn’t live with the sheer quality at City’s disposal. It could have been a few more too if City had settled a little sooner; there was some initial hesitancy as the lack of playing time between Adarabioyo and Sarmiento together on the left side of defence told. Leeds could’ve broke the deadlock only ten minutes in after a misunderstanding between the pair saw their forward fire over, but City’s class soon told and a goal came via Nmecha. It was brilliantly simple in its execution. One pass took took out the midfield, another fed Nemane out wide and he expertly picked out Nmecha in the middle for a tap in. The second came soon after, Tosin Adarabioyo used all of his huge 6’5 frame to rise highest and head home Will Patching’s corner. It could’ve been over by half-time as Nmecha ran past the last line of defence, span his defender but could only see his shot deflect wide, but it remained 2-0 at the interval.

It didn’t take long for City to finish the game off. The third was a beauty. Dilrosun, a magnificent menace all night, skipped in field, drove at the heart of defence and fed his fellow Dutch team-mate, Kongolo. The midfielder burst past the defence and finished sublimely. Aguero-esque. He dummied his first shot, sat the keeper down and coolly rolled it into the bottom corner. Lovely stuff. Leeds’ dropped their heads, and Nmecha made them pay yet again. He did it all himself too, out-muscling Leeds centre-back to win the ball back and then drilling the ball into the bottom corner. The fifth came courtesy of Kongolo, as his volley from a corner somehow trickled past a whole host of bodies into the goal. From that point onwards City seemed to switch off with the game won. It was a shame, as there was more to be had potentially, and the lack of concentration saw the clean sheet slip. Leeds pulled a couple back – the first being an unfortunate own-goal as Sarmiento couldn’t quite adjust his feet, turning the ball into his own net from two yards. The second came via a rather harsh penalty. Davenport appeared to get the ball, even if it was a strong challenge, andthe ref pointed to the spot anyway and Leeds grabbed another. There was some brief moments after that, Brahim going close notably, linking well with the confident Patching, but it ended 5-2.

Dilrosun was exceptional. This was the best I’d seen him since he joined the club at the start of last season from Ajax. He came with a big reputation, but underwhelmed a little last year. We only saw fleeting glimpses of his talent as he perhaps lacked composure, but it was understandable. He was new to the country and the language, and patience was needed. Thankfully he was afforded that time and it’s paying off. He’s looked good this season. Very. The ball stuck to his feet all night and he ran with pace, purpose, variety and no little skill as Leeds’ struggled to get near him. Kongolo arrived in a similar set of circumstances too. A big money signing with a great reputation, but like Dilrosun he started slowly. He’d been willing and eager, but last night was the first real signs of his technical prowess. He broke forward with confidence and his attacking play was vastly better than anything we’d seen from him previously. More of the same could see him surprise a few. Davenport had an outstanding game at the heart of midfield. He only turned seventeen in December, but he plays with a maturity rarely seen in one so young. He excelled, winning challenges and spreading the ball with accuracy as he pinged passes out to both wings. Nmecha was brutal up top. He’s growing, he looks bigger than the tall but slight forward who started the season back in August. Add that to his already very good movement, impressive finishing and clear technical ability, and the future looks incredibly bright for the forward.

Patching toyed with Leeds all night. He grew into the game as City’s confidence rocketed and he could’ve had an assist or two but for some slightly over-hit passes. He’s a lovely player at his best, and he drew purrs of approval from the Leeds commentary team as he linked up with Brahim late in the second half. Sarmiento once again showed all of his footballing in another fine attacking performance. There’s work to be done defensively, clearly. He lacked a positional understanding with his team mates, but given he’s still new at the club this isn’t surprising. It will hopefully come with experience. Adarabioyo, though at first a little unsure, put in a commanding performance, all power and intelligence. Oliver alongside him was equally as composed, cleaning up what little came his way in a relatively trouble free night. Duhaney made his first appearance after a spell on the sidelines and he looked a tad rusty, but still put in an accomplished performance. Though naturally a right-back, he spent the first half of the season over on the left, and he looked great too. I’m not sure he’s quite reached those levels yet on the right, but that will surely come in time. Grimshaw, though not really challenged, and he had no chance with the goals, still impressed. His distribution was fantastic, calmly playing the ball out of defence, totally at ease receiving the ball at any point. It’s a necessity for a modern keeper these days, and he’ll have no trouble on that front.

Brahim sparkled briefly in an exciting cameo, twice turning magically away from his defender as he showcased some of his vast potential. Buckley worked hard after coming on for Nmecha, but saw little of the ball, and Wood had little time to do anything of note as City went through the motions with full time approaching. The last ten minutes aside, and to a lesser extent the first fifteen, it was a devastating performance. City have a habit at this level of making football look remarkably simple when it clicks. It’s a game built on expression, pace and flair. It’s great to watch, and it’s notable how well City use the width of the pitch. We’re blessed with an abundance of highly technical wide-men and their movement, and the ability the midfielders have to pick them out, means we’re likely to score seemingly out of nowhere, with the first goal being proof. There’s a good feeling about this side. It’s a very promising generation, and when you consider that Brahim. Kigbu, Buckley and Wood were only on the bench, with Bullock, Humphreys, Fernandes, Dele-Bashiru, Diallo and Manu Garcia all not in the squad, then you realise how strong things are. This team will at least expect to match last year’s run to the final. It’s certainly capable. A trip to either Wigan or Derby awaits in the next round.

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