Another victory for United's Under-23s
Manchester United’s Under-23s kept the promotion pot boiling with a 3-1 win over Stoke City at Leigh Sports Village on Friday evening.
Goals from Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and Largie Ramazani ensured maximum points were secured and, but for an exceptional goalkeeping display from Stoke’s Blondy Nna Noukeu, including a penalty stop to deny Gomes, we could have doubled our output.
The forecasts of constant heavy downpours across the country proved to be all too accurate as torrential rain was falling continually throughout the afternoon and there was little let-up as kick-off time arrived.
Lead coach Neil Wood selected a strong line-up with Tahith Chong, skipper Angel Gomes and Greenwood all in the starting XI. And it was the latter of that trio who was immediately in the thick of the action and looked almost certain to score, in the fourth minute, when he found himself one-on-one with Stoke’s keeper Nna Noukeu, who spread himself to make a fine save.
Greenwood, however, was not to be denied and, two minutes later, he latched on to a great right-wing cross from Ethan Laird to fire United into the lead. Chong also went close during the opening exchanges as did D’Mani Mellor as the Reds sought to cement our excellent opening to the game.
The Potters weren’t, by any means, inactive in the attacking facet of the game and United keeper Paul Woolston had to be on his toes with Ryan Corrigan, Lasse Sorensen and Ash Kigby all aiming long-range shots in his direction.
Greenwood definitely appeared to be enjoying himself and was on the brink of celebrating another successful strike until Nna Noukeu made a vital block.
Nna Noukeu, who was putting in an impressive performance behind the Stoke defence, made two flying saves from Mellor and Chong straight after the restart, as United looked to regain the lead. But even he couldn’t prevent Gomes from putting United back in front, in the 51st minute after the Reds’ captain did well to make space for himself in a crowded area, to clip the ball home in style, after the ball came to him off Mellor.
And Gomes was given a golden chance to stretch the lead from the penalty spot, a few minutes later, after Chong had been fouled, but he was thwarted by another fine save by the Stoke keeper., who dived to his left to repel the effort.
United replaced Greenwood with Ramazani, just after the hour, and the Belgian made a virtually instant impact after racing through the Stoke defence before rounding Nna Noukeu and slotting the ball into an unguarded net.
The goal came only 33 seconds after the substitute entered the fray and effectively sealed a fourth win on the trot in all competitions.
Stoke increased their presence in United’s half of the field in the last quarter of the game but, despite Scott Wara’s shot hitting both posts before being cleared in the dying seconds, they couldn’t add to their earlier goal.
The only concern were possible injuries to Levitt and Gomes, who had an ice-pack on his ankle on the bench after being withdrawn.
United: Woolston; Laird, Mengi, Bernard, Devine; Levitt (Puigmal 46), Galbraith, Gomes (Traore 80); Mellor, Greenwood (Ramazani 62), Chong.
Substitutes not used: Fojticek, Taylor.
Scorers: Greenwood 6, Gomes 51, Ramazani 63 | Kyeremateng 37
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