Tranmere knock Under-21s out of Leasing.com Trophy
A brace from Tahith Chong was not enough to send Manchester United's Under-21s through in the Leasing.com Trophy after falling to a 3-2 defeat to League One side Tranmere Rovers.
An entertaining first half saw United go a goal down after only 40 seconds. The Under-21s were quick to bounce back, however, and turned things around, only for the home side to equalise before the break.
The second half was overshadowed by serious-looking injuries to Reece Devine and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, which caused lengthy delays. Frustrations boiled over at the end, and the Reds finished the game with 10 men when Deji Sotona was sent off.
Ethan Laird, Di’Shon Bernard, Ethan Galbraith and D’Mani Mellor were in the side after making their debuts for the first team against Astana, last Thursday. Chong also started after Europa League football alongside captain Angel Gomes.
Tranmere began the game quickly and almost instantly scored the opening goal. A lapse in concentration from the United defence, as a throw-in was taken, allowed Hepburn-Murphy to calmly strike the ball past Matej Kovar from close range.
After a shaky start, United began to control the pace of the game and, in the ninth minute, Chong fired home the equaliser. The winger, celebrating his 20th birthday, skillfully escaped his marker on the edge of the area and struck a low shot that flew into the bottom right-corner of Luke Pilling’s goal.
Neil Wood's team took the lead on the half-hour mark, as the ball fell nicely for Mellor ,who miscued his first attempt but then calmly found Chong, who gently curved the ball into the back of the net with his magical left foot.
Ten minutes later, Rovers found an equaliser out of nowhere. A free-kick on the halfway line was launched into the box by Callum Woods and found Connor Jennings, who powerfully struck home through a mass of bodies.
Blackett-Taylor made an instant impact as regained the lead for Tranmere by getting on the end of Kane Wilson’s cross to notch what proved to be the winner. Pressure from Rovers led to a powerful run down the right-hand side by the full-back who cut it back perfectly for Blackett to finish – despite Kovar getting down to the shot.
In the 70th minute, Devine left the pitch on a stretcher after receiving treatment on the field for almost 10 minutes. Hopefully, the full-back makes a quick recovery.
As play resumed, Chong again looked the most dangerous threat for United, twisting inside and outside of his marker and forcing a smart save from the Rovers keeper in the 75th minute.
The injuries to both sides had an effect on the game and slowed the pace down, resulting in both sides finding it difficult to create any opportunities towards the end. Just when Neil Wood was calling for some magic on the sidelines, Chong went down inside the box but no penalty was forthcoming.
United: Kovar; Laird, Bernard, Mengi, Devine (Taylor 71); Galbraith, Helm (Sotona 89); Traore, Gomes, Chong; Mellor.
Subs not used: Woolston, Fish, McCann, McGhee, Mejbri.
Scorers: Hepburn-Murphy 1, Jennings 40, Blackett-Taylor 54 | Chong 9,31
Red card: Sotona 90+17