Spurs under 23’s 2-4 Manchester United: (match report)

Our under 23 side suffered their first Premier League 2 league defeat of the season against Derby County just before the international break, and unfortunately and rather unluckily for Wayne Burnett’s side they followed this up by losing by four goals to two against Manchester United on Sunday, at Leigh Sports Village. In what was a pulsating quite end to end game which was competitive and played at a good intensity, Spurs fought back from a goal down after Shola Shoretire gave Manchester United an early lead. However, Spurs got an equaliser through Kion Etete (his first goal of the season) less than ten minutes later after a good spell in the game for the visitors. Influential Spanish midfielder Arnau Puigmal did regain the home team’s lead shortly after the half hour mark, before he got his second and Man United’s third of the game in first half additional time. Spurs started the second half strongly however, and their hard work paid off when Harvey White pulled a goal back. An interesting 40 minutes or so followed as both teams went in search of that important next goal, but it was Manchester United who scored it in second half stoppage time through the potent Anthony Elanga. This was far from a bad performance from Spurs, and they played with a good intensity, pressed well and created some good chances too. Spurs lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Alfie Whiteman starting in goal. A back four consisting of Marcel Lavinier, captain Jubril Okedina, Tobi Omole and Dennis Cirkin sat in front of him. Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, George Marsh and Harvey White formed a three in midfield, while Dilan Markanday and Jack Clarke started out on the flanks, either side of lone centre forward Kion Etete.

Spurs got the game underway and a good early cross forced Manchester United defender William Fish in to making an early clearance from inside his box. Marcel Lavinier was shown an early yellow card for a sliding challenge on Hannibal Mejbri, as both sides enjoyed a fairly even amount of the ball during the opening stages of the game. However, the home side took the lead on 13 minutes through Shola Shoretire, after Uruguayan winger Facundo Pellistri picked up the ball on the right flank before advancing past Dennis Cirkin and delivering a nice cross towards Shoretire, whose powerful header nestled inside the top right hand corner of Alfie Whiteman’s goal to finish off a good Manchester United move, 0-1. Spurs tried to respond through Cirkin who went on a good run towards the Man United box before forcing a good low save from Paul Woolston, who pushed the ball behind for a corner kick. Soon afterwards the lively Jack Clarke won a free kick in a good position out on the left, he stood up to to take it and delivered a good ball into the oppositions danger zone, but it was cleared away by Mejbri. Spurs did manage to draw level on 22 minutes after a good move which saw Markanday pass the ball to Lyons-Foster down the right side of midfield, ended in the 19 year old whipping in a delightful cross for Etete, who met the ball inside the Man United box. The striker lunged towards the ball before volleying it past Woolston and into the bottom right side of his goal, 1-1.

Spurs looked to go ahead shortly after the restart when Etete passed the ball to White who slipped it into Clarke down the left, but his low cross into the box was cleared away by Teden Mengi before Etete could get to it. Woolston was then put under pressure by Etete, and the goalkeepers pass came to Lyons-Foster on the edge of the box, but he ended up hitting the ball well over the bar. Whiteman gathered comfortably a low cross from Anthony Elanga before Manchester United regained the lead. Shoretire picked the ball up on the left before cutting inside and entering the Spurs box and then passing it to Puigmal who sorted his feet out quickly before firing the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the outstretched Whiteman’s goal, 1-2. Mengi then blocked Markanday’s effort from long range before Jack Clarke was shown a yellow card for a foul on Alvaro Fernandez. An excellent corner kick from White was missed by Woolston however, Clarke didn’t have enough space to convert at the back post, as the ball went behind for a goal kick. Lyons-Foster crucially cleared Hannibal Mejbri’s cross before Northern Ireland international Ethan Galbraith whipped an effort narrowly wide of Whiteman’s goal from long range. A cross from the right flank from Lavinier eventually came to Etete inside the Manchester United box, but he shot wide on the turn. A challenge from Mejbri on the lively Markanday unfortunately meant that the 19 year old had to come off before half-time, and he was replaced by J’Neil Bennett. 

Man United extended their lead in first half additional time after Lukasz Bejger’s through ball wasn’t dealt with by the Tottenham defence, and it allowed Puigmal to run through into the box and power the ball past Whiteman (he got a hand on the ball and looked disappointed to have conceded) and into the back of the net in what was the final piece of action from the first half, 1-3. Man United got the second half underway and early on in the half Whiteman had to be alert to gather Anthony Elanga’s cross from the left. However, Spurs pulled a goal back on 52 minutes through midfielder Harvey White. George Marsh’s persistent pressing paid off after he won the ball off of Mejbri on the edge of the Man United penalty area, he then passed the ball to Clarke down the left side of the box. The Yorkshireman then cleverly squared it to White who was waiting in the middle of the box, and he calmly side footed the ball past Woolston, 2-3. William Fish headed narrowly over from a Hannibal Mejbri corner kick as the game continued to be played at a good tempo. Brooklyn Lyons-Foster was replaced by Elliot Thorpe in central midfield, and the newly introduced midfielder was shown a rather harsh yellow card for a foul on Mejbri. Omole did well to block behind Anthony Elanga’s shot on goal, before Jamie Bowden made his return from injury to replace George Marsh. 

After Clarke played the ball down to Lavinier down the right flank, the former Chelsea man gave it back to Clarke who squared it for Lavinier in the Man United box, but the right backs low effort was saved well by Woolston before a foul was given against Spurs for a Clarke foul on the Man United goalkeeper. Having already switched flanks with Clarke, Bennett came inside from the left and had an effort from range saved by Woolston as Spurs took control of the game. The impressive Teden Mengi blocked an effort from Harvey White on the edge of the Man United box before Cirkin was shown a yellow card, and then Lavinier received Bowden’ down the right, before threading the ball through to Clarke down the right side of the Man United box. However, Clarke’s powerful low effort was saved by Woolston, before Okedina did well to block substitute Mark Helm’s effort, with Ethan Galbraith hitting the ball over on the follow up. After Hannibal Mejbri passed the ball to Fish inside the Spurs box, Burnett’s side looked to be in trouble but for an excellent block from Okedina on Fish’s shot. Omole then did well to block Anthony Elanga’s shot inside the Spurs box before Fernandez hit the ball over the bar from the edge of the penalty area. Omole’s long pass forward almost set Etete through on goal at the other end, but William Fish did well to win the ball. Then a good long pass from the substitute Bowden set Etete through on goal but his heavy first touch saw the ball roll through for Woolston to gather inside his box.

Manchester United secured the win in second half additional time after Anthony Elanga received the ball out on the left flank. He managed to get away from Lavinier before entering the Spurs box and tucking the ball past Alfie Whiteman and into the back of the net to bring an end to a pulsating game of football which could have went either way, 2-3.

Player reviews:

  • Alfie Whiteman: The 22 year old didn’t actually make a save against Manchester United, as all four of the home team’s efforts on target ended in goals. Whiteman’s distribution was good and direct.
  • Marcel Lavinier: The former Chelsea right back really grew into the game, and he had a strong second performance, particularly going forward. Lavinier went on some good runs, and he also linked up well with Jack Clarke after the winger had switched flanks.
  • Jubril Okedina: The Spurs captain showed good leadership and took defensive responsibility in certain situations when the home team came close to scoring. Okedina made a crucial defensive intervention during the first half and an excellent last ditch block in the second half.
  • Tobi Omole: Showing good composure in central defence, the versatile former Arsenal player did well on his first competitive start for the club. He made some good and important blocks during the second half.
  • Dennis Cirkin: Having to defend against Manchester United’s Uruguayan winger Facundo Pellistri was always going to be a difficult task for the left back. The skilful winger did have some joy down our left side, but Cirkin did respond well and he went on some good tricky runs of his own at the opposite end of the pitch.
  • George Marsh: Playing as the deepest of a midfield three, defensive midfielder George Marsh did well in the game, and he played a good part in us scoring our second goal of the match, thanks to some good pressing from the tireless midfielder.
  • Brooklyn Lyons-Foster: My man of the match, see below.
  • Harvey White: Playing as the most advanced of a midfield three, our second goalscorer of the game (he took his goal well from inside the Man United box) Harvey White had another fine game for our under 23 side, as he took his goal involvement statistics for the team this season to four (two goals and two assists). Getting himself into some good forward positions, White was tidy with the ball at his feet and he also pressed really well. It was really interesting to see him play in that role.
  • Dilan Markanday: The lively winger played out on the right flank, and the 19 year old did cause problems for Man United left back left back Alvaro Fernandez with his fine agility. Unfortunately Markanday had to go off through injury just before the end of the first half, but hopefully he will be back playing again very soon.
  • Kion Etete: I was impressed with how Etete performed up front on his own today. The former Notts County man held the ball up and protected it really well, and he showed good awareness and ability to link the play as well. Etete took his goal well on the volley and on another day the very hard working centre forward could have had more goals, due to his good movement off the ball.
  • Jack Clarke: The former Leeds United winger showed good strength on the ball as he attempted to accelerate past players down the left flank (he later switched onto the right flank), and Clarke was involved in some good passages of play for Spurs, setting up White’s goal with a clever pass with the outside of his foot, before also coming going to getting a goal of his own later on in the game.
  • J’Neil Bennett: Coming onto the pitch just before half-time, winger J’Neil Bennett had one good effort saved by the Manchester United goalkeeper after cutting inside from the left, and he also went on some good forward runs.
  • Elliot Thorpe: The second half introduction of the central midfielder saw the 20 year old always looking to play forward and create. Unlucky with one such forward pass that came close to creating a clear cut chance for Spurs, Thorpe’s work rate was consistently very good during his time on the pitch. 
  • Jamie Bowden: The second half substitute went about his job quietly but effectively during his 20 plus minutes on the pitch following his return from injury. Bowden was nice and tidy in his play and he made some good long forward passes. It was great to see him back playing again.

My man of the match: There were some good and strong performances out on the pitch against Manchester United on Sunday evening but a very assured performance from Brooklyn Lyons-Foster as a number eight during his 63 minutes on the pitch, made him for me our best player on the day. Putting in a very similar performance to when he played for our under 18’s in a game against Fulham back in the 2018/19 season (also in midfield), the versatile midfielder had that same calming effect on the game today. Playing with a good intensity, Lyons-Foster read the game and pressed players to really good effect, and he always tried to be first to the ball every time, and as a result of this he made some good interceptions. Despite playing out of position he did well, and the midfielder whipped in a delightful cross to pick out Kion Etete for his goal to get his first assist of the season.

Spurs u23’s stats:

Goals: Harvey White – 2

Rodel Richards – 2

Kazaiah Sterling – 1

George Marsh – 1

Jack Clarke – 1

Dilan Markanday – 1

Alfie Devine – 1

Kion Etete – 1

Assists: Harvey White – 2

Jack Roles – 1

Dilan Markanday – 1

Dennis Cirkin – 1

Kazaiah Sterling – 1

J’Neil Bennett – 1

Brooklyn Lyons-Foster – 1

Jack Clarke – 1

Clean sheets: Brandon Austin – 2

Alfie Whiteman – 1

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