Under-23s: United edge out Brighton

Saturday 18 September 2021 14:49

Manchester United Under-23s' wait for a first victory of the season ended in a dramatic climax against Brighton & Hove Albion at Leigh Sports Village Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

This was our fifth Premier League 2 Division One fixture of the campaign and it looked all set to end in our third draw but a late, late winner from Zidane Iqbal ended the triumph drought against a fine Seagulls side who started the game unbeaten and in second position in the league table.

It was a beautiful late summer/early autumn afternoon in Greater Manchester’s western extremities as the game commenced under blue skies and wispy clouds. First-team goalkeeper Dean Henderson and central defender Phil Jones were on duty again in order to top up with much-needed game-time.

In the early stages United's formation appeared to fluctuate from the familiar 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2 and when the Seagulls were pushing forward, Alvaro Fernandez, who was wearing the number 11 shirt, dropped back to make a five-man rearguard. Whichever system the team adopted, it proved to working with the Reds looking threatening in attack and resolute in defence.
Henderson and Jones both played the full 90 minutes as they continue to build up their fitness.
One early foray into Brighton’s territory saw Jones go close to finding the net but he was foiled twice by Seagulls ‘keeper Thomas McGill. Moments later and the visitors could have snatched the lead but Odeluga’s shot flew over Henderson’s crossbar.

It certainly wasn’t one-way traffic as both teams looked lively and inventive going forward. But United eventually moved in front, two minutes before the break, when defender James Furlong felled Elanga in the area and referee Eliott Swallow immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Elanga instantly grabbed the ball before rattling home a fierce shot high past McGill and into the net.

So United went in at half-time in front but that goal was pretty well all there was to separate the teams after a keenly contested first forty-five minutes.
Little changed after the restart as this hugely entertaining and competitive encounter continued to swing from one end to the other. The Seagulls' skipper Marc Leonard was a fraction away from slotting home the equaliser and seconds later United’s Charlie Wellens almost extended our lead with a sizzling angled drive.

Joe Hugill had the ball in the net just before the hour mark but the assistant referee’s flag was already fluttering. Then, in the 65th minute, Brighton were back on level terms when striker Lorent Tolaj, who had a terrific tussle with Jones, hit an unstoppable shot past Henderson.

At that stage it appeared that United’s wait for a first three-pointer was about to continue but there was to be a sting in the tail. Three minutes into the five added on by the referee, the crowd of 1,087 were celebrating when substitute Iqbal lashed home what was to prove the winner.

Brighton looked understandably stunned by this late strike as, like the Reds, they had given their all.
Watch the goals, plus reaction from U23s lead coach Neil Wood.

United: Henderson; Wellens, Mengi, Jones, Hardley; Shoretire (McNeill 82), Svidersky, Savage, Fernandez; Elanga, Hugill (Iqbal 46).
Substitutes not used: Hoogewerf, Vitek, McShane.

Scorers: Elanga pen. 43, Iqbal 90+3 | Tolaj 65.