equaliser. Rudge’s first involvement nearly brought a goal as like Daehli before him, he whipped in a cross which again eluded everybody but flew wide of the far post.
The Japanese team were playing some good football, keeping the ball on the ground and using quick triangular passing movements, and were trying to catch United on the counter. On 65 minutes, Rudge had a shot saved and, five minutes later, Tyler Blackett’s strong free-kick effort cannoned high off the defensive wall and went behind for a corner. From the resulting corner, Blackett missed a wonderful chance to score but he put his header wide of the mark. With time running out Joyce sent on Nicholas Ioannou for van Velzen after 75 minutes. Seconds later Liam Grimshaw received a deserved yellow card when after being turned by the Reysol winger, he pulled him back by his shirt. It was a mistake that was to cost United dearly.
The three-man wall appeared not to be lined up correctly with space at the near post clearly evident. Natsuki took the free-kick and his low shot was aimed at that near post. Gollini seemed to see it clearly and went down to make what should have been a very easy save. However, he allowed the ball to squirm from his hands and underneath his body into the net. United now had a mountain to climb.
The Japanese were cock-a-hoop and from then on played a possession game making United’s players work hard to get any kind of fluency going. When they did get possession, United did not seem to be able to keep it and as time began to play out and they attempted to press forward, they were caught on the counter.
As the game got to the 80th minute a loose ball in midfield was collected by the Reysol midfield and a through ball found Noki with a clear path to goal. His strong effort produced a magnificent save from Gollini who atoned a little for his earlier blunder. United were chasing the game and in the last few minutes forced three successive corners, the last of which saw Blackett miss badly with a header. The referee blew for full-time, and the Reysol team (most of whom follow Manchester United) celebrated their perfect tournament record –