A plucky performance by City under-18s earned little reward in the final match of their pre-season tour of Portugal, with Adam Sadler’s men on the receiving end of a 3-1 defeat.
Three first half goals by the hosts were enough to condemn the Blues to a second-successive defeat but there was plenty of cause for optimism after City’s spirited second half performance.
Sadler’s party of 14-17-year old players faced an older Sporting Lisbon side and unsurprisingly found it difficult to impose themselves on the physically larger opposition.
In the early minutes it was Sporting in the ascendency, creating a succession of chances that City managed to repel thanks to a combination of the wastefulness of the Portuguese opposition and some excellent defending, particularly in the case of Libyan-born right-back Sadiq El-Fitouri.
Sporting’s main threat came from the right-hand side and that was the source of their first goal which came after 15 minutes through Mane who converted with a simple sidefooted finish from six-yards out.
City levelled matters just five minutes later through one of their most dangerous attacking outlets Brandon Barker. Barker has impressed throughout this pre-season tour with his tireless running and on this occasion, the lone forward capitalised on a defensive error to slot home.
Parity lasted just eight minutes with Sporting taking the lead from the penalty spot after James Horsfield brought down Gerson and the hosts extended their lead in the 36th minute, thanks to a brilliant curling effort which gave Liam Sharpe in the City goal no chance.
Any fears that City might cave in after the interval were proved to be without cause thanks to the battling spirit that was on display in the second half.
James Hardy was brought into the middle of the park and continued to catch the eye with his unfussy quality on the ball. The diminutive midfielder punched above his weight against the hulking Sporting side and gave City some welcome possession to ease pressure on the defence.
Billy O’Brien took Liam Sharpe’s place between the sticks in the second half and he was a spectator for lengthy periods of the half, with only a couple of late chances for Sporting threatening to dirty his personal clean sheet.
City u18s travel back to the UK on Wednesday before jetting off to a tournament in Oberndorf, Germany on Thursday.