Under-23s: Aston Villa 5 United 1
Manchester United’s Under-23s missed the opportunity to move to the Premier League 2 Division Two summit after slipping to a 5-1 defeat against Aston Villa at Villa Park on Monday evening.
Three points would have seen United take over from Reading at the top but, despite being on level terms at the break, the 10 men went on to lose for the third time this season as Villa proved to be more productive in front of goal and fully capitalised on George Tanner's red card.
The game was barely out of the wrapper when Villa carved out the first opening of the game, but they failed to profit from the early threat as Jacob Ramsey fired wide from winger Rushian Hepburn-Murphy's assist. Twice in quick succession, the Reds’ defence were relieved to have Matej Kovar protecting the goal after pulling off two fantastic saves to deny Keinan Davis and Hepburn-Murphy. United, wearing pink shirts and black shorts, slowly got a foothold in the contest and were beginning to make our presence felt.
But then, in the 13th minute, Villa proved that their early dominance was no flash in the pan when striker Davis got above the defenders to head home Corey Taylor’s corner. Attacking the deserted Holte End, United were looking for inspiration and it almost arrived, courtesy of Aidan Barlow, when he found Zak Dearnley but he just couldn’t find the final touch. Barlow and Dearnley combined again, just after the half-hour mark, but the latter’s shot squirmed wide of the post.
This was much better from United and, 12 minutes before the break, we got our reward when Nishan Burkart made the most of good positioning to hit home the leveller, following approach work by Josh Bohui. It was Burkart’s second Premier League 2 goal of the season and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time as the Reds' improvement gathered pace, with Dearnley hitting a post towards the end of the half.
Coach Ricky Sbragia made just one change ahead of the second half, sending on D’Mani Mellor for Bohui and the newly introduced substitute was soon in the thick of it as the Reds opened brightly.Goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo was kept busy as United pressed, but the, in the 56th minute, Hepburn-Murphy broke away down the right before rifling a low shot past Kovar. Villa may have eased their way back into the lead, but United continued to put pressure on the Villa defence and could have equaliised but for Sinisalo’s heroics. United’s cause was dealt a crushing blow in the 66th minute when full-back Tanner was sent off, after being shown a second yellow card, for a foul on Villa’s Callum O’Hare.
Worse was to follow, four minutes later ,when Kelsey Mooney slid home Villa’s third goal and substitute Jordan Cox added a fourth with six minutes left on the clock with a rising drive past Kovar. Just before the end, a free-kick by O'Hara was helped into his own net by Ro-Shaun Williams to give an unfair look to the final scoreline.
United: Kovar; O’Connor, Poole, R. Williams, Tanner; Whelan (Levitt 78), Barlow, Hamilton; Dearnley, Burkart (Warren 74), Bohui (Mellor 46).
Substitutes not used: Fojticek, Ercolani.
Scorers: Davis 13, Hepburn-Murphy 56, Mooney 70, Cox 84, R. Williams og 90 | Burkart 33
Sbragia's side face Fulham at Leigh Sports Village on Friday night, kick-off 19:00 GMT, with the action live on MUTV. The Reds will be looking to bounce back but could still be without several players due to the training trip to Dubai.
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