United's Under-23s win after dramatic finale
Manchester United's Under-23s secured the three points against Fulham at Leigh Sports Village, thanks to Dylan Levitt scoring the only goal of the game in the 85th minute, and Matej Kovar saving a penalty in stoppage time.
Both teams finished with 10 men as the two captains - Jaydn Mundle-Smith and Brandon Williams were sent off in the second half. Levitt broke the deadlock but a debatable spot-kick handed Timmy Abraham the chance to level the scores at the death. However, Kovar was the hero with a super stop.
Will Fish made his Under-23s bow at the heart of the defence and both he and Teden Mengi impressed from the outset, with some powerful challenges in front of Patrice Evra in the crowd.
James Garner, who has been in excellent form this term but missed out on the Premier League 2 Player of the Month award to Chelsea's Billy Gilmour, clipped an effort over the top but may have held his breath when the ball deflected off him at the other end and drifted narrowly wide of Kovar's left-hand post for a corner.
Anthony Elanga switched flanks to cut in dangerously from the right but ended up being crowded out at the crucial moment, with his shot blocked well. Williams raced onto an Elanga pass but could not pick Garner out in the middle, but the Cottagers also remained a threat with Mengi making a vital interception to deny Sonny Hilton.
United looked certain to score just past the half-hour mark but spurned two glorious chances. Firstly, Elanga was left clean through and went past keeper Luca Ashby-Hammond but ended up firing over the top when off balance. Seconds later, Williams drove through again from right-back but fired his effort just the wrong side of the far post as things opened up for him.
Hilton swept wide from a Ryan De Havilland pass at the other end but the Reds finished the half stronger. Ethan Galbraith's venomous drive brought the best out of Ashby-Hammond and the highly rated keeper also held on to a Levitt strike in stoppage time.
Jayden Harris's shot took a double deflection before going out for a goal kick and Kovar had to go down to clutch a Martell Taylor-Crossdale attempt as the Londoners looked for the breakthrough.
A flare-up between Williams and Taylor-Crossdale, off the ball, showed the increasing intensity of the occasion as both teams upped the tempo. Largie Ramazani drifted a shot wide and Garner dragged off target from outside the box as the Reds began to make progress again in the opposing half.
Dion McGhee, playing at left-back, was unable to shake off an injury with Mark Helm on for his debut at this level.
Seconds after Harris was inches away from opening the scoring with a near-post effort, the visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 64th minute, when Mundle-Smith launched into a reckless tackle on Ramazani and was shown a red card.
After the sending off, United completely dominated and kept trying to find a way through the massed ranks in Fulham's defence.
Substitute Helm and Levitt were thwarted by Ashby-Hammond and Ramazani lashed over the top when Williams released D'Mani Mellor into the channel with a fine pass. Williams then had a penalty shout that was turned down when he charged into the area.
With time running out, Helm arrived late in the box but was unable to apply the finishing touch. From the next attack, Ramazani dribbled past a couple of defenders and teed up Levitt for a relaxed, rolled finish into the bottom corner of the net with five minutes remaining.
Garner could have made the points safe a couple of minutes later but was unable to convert the rebound when Levitt's shot was pushed out by Ashby-Hammond. Instead, Williams received a second yellow card for a trip and the visitors managed to earn a dubious penalty when Abraham, brother of Chelsea's Tammy, went down under minimal pressure from Elanga. Abraham stepped up to take responsibility himself but Kovar dived to his left to save and Garner cleared the loose ball.
The hard-fought victory keeps Neil Wood's team top of the Premier League 2 Division 2 table, with 13 points from our first five matches.
United: Kovar; Williams (c), Mengi, Fish, McGhee (Helm 62); Garner, Levitt; Ramazani, Galbraith, Elanga; Mellor. Substitutes: Woolston, Hockenhull, Wellens, Hoogewerf.
The Under-23s' next outing is a week on Monday (23 September), away to Aston Villa. It is set to be shown live on MUTV.
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