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City v Inter Milan: UEFA Youth League highlights

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City Under 19s edged into the last eight of the UEFA Youth League with a shoot-out win over Inter Milan.

It was a deserved victory for City, who played much of the game on the front foot but fell behind when Grimshaw took too long with a back pass and Xian Emmers’ block of his clearance ended up in the back of the net.

Lukas Nmecha equalised from the penalty spot, but against an organised and resolute Italian outfit City could not force a winner and it was left to Grimshaw to seal the victory in the shoot-out.

What happened
Though the game began at a fairly sedate pace, as both sides tested the waters rather than going gung-ho early on, the first half produced much of the best play.

It was a contest in which City grew into, with Joel Latibeaudiere’s tame header the only chance before Emmers took advantage of Grimshaw’s hesitancy to open the scoring in the 12th minute.

It did little to knock the host’s confidence, who continued to dominate the ball, but came up against a stern defence, which has conceded less than a goal a game domestically.

City had struggled to create anything of note until Phil Foden unlocked the back line with a cute through ball and Nmecha looked to have profited before Italy U19 international, Davide Bettella, felled him.

The skipper picked himself up and coolly sent the ‘keeper the wrong way with a side footed effort into the bottom right corner.

It sparked a period of real dominance for Simon Davies’ side and Foden and Nmecha were at the heart of much of the best play.

The former nearly released Ian Poveda with another probing pass in behind, before the latter’s jinking run result in an angled drive from Foden, which Inter ‘keeper Vladan Dekic beat away.

Nmecha almost grabbed a second after he carved a yard of space for himself but his low strike from 18 yards flashed past the left post.

Inter remained in the game, though and on the stroke of half-time gave City a timely reminder of the threat they carried when Bettella, was picked out at the far post, only to volley over from six yards.
That proved to be the last clear cut chance of the tie as both sides became embroiled in a keenly fought battle after the break.

The Italian’s - who sit second in their domestic league – appeared more committed in attack but that served only to highlight the Blues’ danger on the counter.

But with a five-man defence, Inter proved difficult to breakdown and though substitute Luke Bolton tormented the left-back after his introduction, City were reduced to shots from distance.
Rabbi Matondo unleashed twice in quick succession on the hour mark but Dekic, who impressed throughout, was equal to them both.

And with the imposing Manuel Lombardoni helping to quell the impact of Nmecha, Foden and Brahim Diaz’s trickery, the ‘keeper continued to comfortably deal with pot-shots, though Matt Smith was unlucky with his fierce 25-yard drive in stoppage time.

So to the drama of penalties, which was delivered by the bucket load.

Felix Nmecha and Ed Francis both scored to put City 2-1 ahead after Grimshaw denied Facundo Colidio, but it almost fell apart after that.

Smith saw his shot saved, Foden followed suit with a tame effort before Nmecha blazed over and then Diaz was also denied.

Fortunately, Grimshaw was in inspired form and after Nabil Touaizi calmly converted City’s seventh penalty, the ‘keeper guessed right to keep out Bettella and send his side through to the last eight.

Line-up
Davies named four players with first team experience in the starting line-up, with Tom Dele-Bashiru, Diaz, Foden, and Nmecha all returning to U19 action.

It was a much-changed side from the team who lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the final group stage game, with only three players retaining their place.

Grimshaw was in goal and was protected by a back three of Eric Garcia, Latibeaudiere and Francis.

Smith and Dele-Bashiru anchored midfield with Poveda joining Diaz, Foden and Matondo in a quartet behind Nmecha.

What it means

City will face Liverpool or Manchester United at home in the last eight.

The young Blues will discover their fate on Wednesday 21 February, with the tie scheduled to take place on 13/14 March.