EDS & Academy

City 3 Benfica 1

City 3 Benfica 1
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Premier League 2 16/17
Fri 21 Nov
City EDS got their Premier League International Cup campaign off to a dream start with a 3-1 victory over Benfica at a wet and windy Ewen Fields.

First half strikes from Brandon Barker secured all three points and a desired winning start in this brand new continental competition, played against a backdrop of very British weather.  

The young boys in blue thoroughly deserved this victory after a stylish first half in which they consistently frightened the Benfica defence with incisive, pacey attacking play that was a joy to watch. 

City were the last in Group C to begin their International Cup campaign, with all the other three teams playing at least one fixture before tonight.

Benfica emerged 1-0 winners over Schalke, but Leicester held top spot in the group ahead of kick off courtesy of a 2-0 victory over the German side.

The EDS had a point to prove in this clash, and were seeking a modicum of revenge against Benfica after the two sides met at u19 level last March. City dominated that game for long periods but went down 2-1 and were condemned to an early exit from the UEFA Youth League at the quarter final stage at the hands of the Eagles.

Six City players who started that fixture were included in Patrick Vieira’s XI on this occasion, while a further two, Thierry Ambrose and Olivier Ntcham, made substitute appearances.

Birthday boy Billy O’Brien was back between the sticks, while Barker and Sinan Bytyqi looked to support Ambrose from the wings.

Meanwhile, only three of the opposition’s u19 line-up last March made the step up to be included in this u21 squad.  

Benfica began brightly and aimed to take the first blood with a dangerous free kick that was headed away at the near post by Ambrose, but City were quick to respond with a beautiful free-flowing move orchestrated by Seko Fofana in the centre.

After a quick exchange of passes with Barker to move the ball up the field, he switched play to Bytyqi, who was unlucky to see his low cross diverted away from danger.

However, just minutes later and City were ahead. Bytyqi’s free kick struck the ball but Barker rescued the attack and crossed for Ntcham, who struck the ball straight into the roof of the net – aided by some swirling winds.

But in an entertaining encounter, the EDS surrendered their early lead on 16 minutes, when Rui Fonte raced beyond Kean Bryan to stroke the ball home.

Angelino and Barker both had chances to regain the lead, while Ambrose should have done better after seizing on a poor back pass and rounding the keeper only to see the defender divert the ball behind.

O’Brien was called upon to make a great stop from close range after Benfica got beyond the defence again before Fofana doubled City’s tally with a fantastic, well placed curling effort into the bottom corner that left Benfica keeper Varela grasping at thin air.

He then turned provider for the excellent Barker, playing in the England youth international who danced his way past the defender before finishing low into the bottom corner for City’s third of the night.

City retained control after the break although chances were at a premium. Goncalo Guedes curled a shot just past O’Brien’s post for the visitors, while Bytyqi should have added a fourth for the EDS after a superb through ball from Ntcham. 

Vieira will have been pleased with the control his side showed in the second half, but the final ball was often lacking and they struggled to create clear cut opportunities.

Bytyqi had another go with an attempt from distance that whistled past Varela’s top corner, but City’s work had largely been completed in the first half and all that remained were the dotting of a few Is.

Angelino saw a penalty brilliantly saved by Varela, while Maffeo fired over the bar late on, but the points never really looked in doubt and City ran out comfortable winners after a distinguished competition debut. 

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