United see off Rangers in SuperCupNI
A team of Manchester United youngsters comfortably beat Rangers' Under-21 side 4-0 at the Coleraine Showgrounds on Saturday evening, thanks to goals from Ethan Galbraith, Arnau Puigmal, Anthony Elanga and Di’Shon Bernard.
Ahead of the game, Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill took to the pitch and shook hands with both teams in front of a packed crowd at the Showgrounds, with the match also broadcast live on BBC Sport NI.
Soon after, the Reds took the lead in sublime style through Galbraith, returning to his homeland for the double header of games. The United no.10 picked the ball up around 25 yards from goal and after dummying to go onto his left, shifted it onto his right and unleashed a superb curling effort which flew high over the helpless Wright and into the net.
Four minutes later, United doubled the lead. Good link-up play between Brandon Williams and Elanga down the left-hand side found the former with space at the edge of the area. His inch-perfect ball fell perfect at the feet of Puigmal and the Spaniard calmly slotted home from just outside the six-yard box.
Midway through the first period, Rangers found a bit of composure, which was lacking in the earlier stages. First, Teden Mengi dealt well with a dangerous counter-attack, and then Williams produced a fine last-ditch tackle to send Kai Kennedy’s shot out for a corner.
However, United were soon back on the front foot and had three opportunities to extend the lead before the interval. It was Ramazani who had the first two opportunities. The striker expertly met Dion McGhee’s in-swinging corner and saw his effort crash off the crossbar, as too he did moments later when his side-footed effort was pushed onto the woodwork by Wright.
After the interval, it was much the same from United, who scored five minutes into the second period. Unsurprisingly, it was the combination of Williams and Elanga down the left which proved effective once again.
Captain for the evening Williams received a short corner and whipped it onto the head of the eagerly anticipating Elanga, who glanced home from a few yards out and extended the Reds’ lead to three.
United keeper Matej Kovar was then called into a rare bit of action and did well to hold Andrew Dallas’s driven cross. He was also on hand a minute later to recover superbly and emerge with the ball after a Rangers trialist had been presented with a chance to score.
The scoring was soon complete thanks to Bernard. Sloppy play from the Scots saw Ramazani hit the crossbar for a third time in the match and, after a hasty clearance from Williams’s cross landed at the feet of Bernard, the defender swivelled and blasted a shot into the bottom corner past Wright.
The Reds continued to be on top, with Aliou Troare and Ramazani both producing testing efforts, before Dallas came close at the other end for Rangers.
The closing stages produced few chances for either side, with United’s huge lead all but confirming the win for Wood’s team, although Galbraith and substitute D’mani Mellor came close at the death.
The full-time whistle was cheered by the very pro-United crowd in Coleraine and marked an excellent curtain-raiser for the SuperCupNI.
REACTION FROM NEIL WOOD
Speaking after the game, Wood expressed his delight at the Reds’ attacking potency against Rangers.
“To score four goals was great,” he said.
“We’ve had some really tough games in pre-season and the lads are working hard. It’s good to raise their confidence and in the end they did quite well.
“We’ve been working on trying to break forward quickly, getting crosses into the box, so I’m happy we’ve had efforts going in at goal and I’m happy there are people up there trying to score. I’m pleased with that.”
Next up for the Reds is a game against Ballymena United, who were recently involved in the Europa League qualifiers. We will face the Sky Blues at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Monday, and Wood believes playing against a senior men’s side will pose a different challenge for his youngsters.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“I think they’ll be up for it and they know the test that is going to come. There are certain things that you don’t get away with [when playing a senior side] and certain mistakes that get punished, and you have to be on top of your game as well. They know it’s going to be a bigger test on Monday and we’re looking forward to that.”
While Wood's youngsters will be returning to Manchester after the Ballymena clash, our Under-15s will remain for the rest of the week as they hope continue the club's 30-year affinity with the SuperCupNI by winning the competition for an eighth time.
United: Kovar; Laird (Tanner), Mengi, Bernard (Barlow), Williams (c); Troare, Galbraith, Puigmal; McGhee, Ramazani, Elanga (Mellor).
Subs not used: Woolston, Carney, Levitt.
Scorers: Galbraith (7), Puigmal (11), Elanga (50), Bernard (59).
Main image credit: Presseye.
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