City EDS went down 3-2 to a strong and competitive Elche B side on their first outing of pre-season.
Playing against a team that ply their trade in the Spanish third division against men every week, they acquitted themselves well throughout and Patrick Vieira professed himself pleased with the workout at the Pinatar Arena.
New striker David Fauapala opened the scoring midway through the second period, but Elche responded immediately with a freekick and went ahead just over 10 minutes later.
City refused to concede defeat and constantly searched for openings to create an equaliser, but were instead hit with a sucker punch when a free kick awarded from a full 35 yards caught everybody by surprise and found the net unchallenged.
A late rally from the boys in blue demonstrated the character this team possesses and they got their rewards with a late penalty. James Hardy duly despatched the spot kick with virtually the last kick of the game, but time proved the greatest enemy of the EDS and the final whistle blew with City still trailing 3-2.
With so many members of the Elite Development Squad away with the first team in Australia, the team that took to the field for the first game of pre-season had a somewhat unfamiliar feel.
Charlie Oliver wore the captain’s armband at the heart of a defence featuring two trialists, while Kean Bryan and Ashley Smith-Brown made welcome returns from injury from the bench for the last half hour.
Faupala led the line, initially supported by Jorge Intima and Aaron Nemane on the wings.
In a first half of few clear opportunities, Elche attempted to exert a physical influence over Patrick Vieira’s young charges.
Hardy twice saw his efforts cleared off the line from an acute angle, while Aaron Nemane caused the defence plenty of problems with his trickery. At the other end, the Spanish outfit’s best chance of the opening 40 minutes was blasted high into the stand by an overenthusiastic striker.
The game exploded into life after the break with both sides having a succession of chances. Hardy found the goalkeeper’s gloves with a free kick, while the clearest chance of the night fell to the same man, Smith-Brown and Nemane combining well on the right but the midfielder’s flicked finish cannoned off the woodwork.
City got their reward through Faupala, who was in the right place to turn the ball home after good work from Wood and Dilrosun, but were pegged back immediately with Elche’s equaliser. After the Spanish side went ahead Dilrosun and 16-year-old Joe Hardy created chances that no one was able to convert while Faupala should have scored from Hardy’s cross.
Instead City were punished with the opposition’s audacious set piece from distance.
A two goal difference was never a fair reflection of this competitive, high tempo game and it was nothing less than City deserved when James Hardy netted the team’s second from the spot late on.
Speaking after the final whistle, Vieira told mcfc.co.uk: “It was a really good game with a high tempo and I am really pleased with where we are physically and tactically.
“We played against a really competitive team and it was really aggressive but we fought to the end and were rewarded with the penalty.
To lose a game 3-2 is not something you want but behind that result I think we played some really good football with a mixed group, because we had trialists, some u18s and some guys who were coming back from injury.”
Added Vieira: “It was a really positive ten days. The guys have worked really hard so I think they deserve a few days off and then we start again to prepare for the new season.”
CITY: O’Brien, Trialist A, Tattum, Oliver, Trialist B, Kongolo, Intima, James Hardy, Faupala, Wood, Nemane