Under-19s: United 6 Young Boys 2
Manchester United clinched top spot in UEFA Youth League Group H with a 6-2 victory over Young Boys, even if the contest was a lot more difficult than the scoreline suggests.
Felix Mambimbi gave the Swiss team an early lead and, despite Mason Greenwood's double turning the game in the Reds' favour, a penalty by Jan Kronig ensured the scores were level at half-time. The Reds did not go in front again until the 78th minute but two quickfire spot-kicks, by Aidan Barlow and Tahith Chong, set up a frenetic finale. United substitutes Dylan Levitt and D'Mani Mellor both added their names to the scoresheet as the hosts made it 14 goals in three home games at Leigh Sports Village in the competition.
The Reds were unusually slow to start striding and fell behind in only the seventh minute. Thomas Alonso's shot looped up off Ethan Laird and over United goalkeeper Matej Kovar, dropping against the bar. Mambimbi was first to the rebound to nod the visitors in front
It took 24 minutes for a real response but it led to the Reds hitting top gear. Chong's free-kick may have gone way over the bar but, moments later, Young Boys skipper Kronig slipped to let in Aliou Traore. Although the Frenchman was unable to finish, the ball broke to Greenwood, who claimed the final touch for the equaliser.
A neat shimmy and pass by Greenwood allowed Barlow to dip a decent effort the wrong side of the far post before the group leaders took the lead on the half-hour mark. Greenwood picked the ball up on the left, showed off a classy touch, and ran through towards goal before burying a trademark low finish wide of Joschua Neuenschwander for his fifth goal of the competition.
Two minutes later, it was level pegging again as Di'Shon Bernard was harshly punished for a challenge on Mambimbi. It looked a soft penalty award but Kronig did not stand on ceremony and powered his spot-kick past Kovar's right hand. Bernard thought he had atoned when diving to nod in a Barlow free-kick, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside as it remained 2-2 going into the interval.
United started the second half in the ascendancy and kept up the pressure as Young Boys gamely tried to hang on. Josh Bohui floated an effort towards the top corner that was palmed away by Neuenschwander and James Garner's free-kick took a flick off the wall before going wide.
The Swiss side began to get exposed in defence, as Greenwood's promptings proved useful. A cute pass by the England Under-18 international released Barlow, who clipped over Neuenschwander but against the bar. Another Greenwood through ball set up substitute D'Mani Mellor but Neuenschwander blocked with his legs. Aliou Traore also tested the keeper's reflexes with a low drive through a crowd and Chong curled wide.
A wonderful block by Kresnik Hairizi, after Greenwood teed up Aliou Traore, brought more frustration before the floodgates opened in stunning fashion. Hairizi was guilty of a foul on Mellor and Barlow made no mistake from the spot with 12 minutes left. Soon afterwards, Breston Malula clattered into Brandon Williams to allow Chong to convert the penalty, with Barlow having just been substituted.
Neuenschwander was facing a barrage of attacks at this point but he did superbly to deny Greenwood, from a tight angle, and a couple of attempts by Mellor. However, he had no chance when Levitt whistled home a pass by Traore and Mellor put the icing on the cake, making it 6-2 in the 90th minute as he notched a deserved goal by firing in from an Arnau Puigmal assist.
Young Boys were no match for Butt's boys in the end, wilting under the extreme pressure as United carved through them at will in another impressive showing.
United: Kovar; Laird (B. Williams 24), Ercolani, Bernard, O'Connor (Puigmal 80); Garner, Traore, Barlow (Levitt 80); Chong, Greenwood, Bohui (Mellor 65).
Subs not used: Fojticek, Galbraith, Ramazani.
Scorers: Greenwood 25,30 Barlow 78 (pen), Chong 81 (pen), Levitt 87, Mellor 90 | Mambimbi 7, Kronig 32 (pen)
Valencia provide the opposition in the final Group H game, away in Spain on Wednesday 12 December with kick-off at 12:00 GMT.
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Josh Bohui comes off the bench to salvage a point for Ricky Sbragia's Reds at The Hawthorns.