A comprehensive, intricate and intelligent display of football. City were at times brilliant, easily the most assured the EDS have been this year and the scoreline was just rewards for some beautiful football. The damage was done mostly in the first half, City blowing Middlesbrough away as Aleix Garcia and Patching dictated proceedings with an almost arrogant ease. We couldn't have started better either - Garcia scoring with a mere 56 seconds on the clock. An innocuous effort from the edge of the area was embarrassingly spilt by the keeper and it trickled into the net. It set the tone, and buoyed by the early gift, they knocked the ball around with delightful panache. The second came not long after, Will Patching the provider. It was exquisite, too - a sublime no-look reverse through ball from the u18s man found the unmarked Bersant Celina who drilled past the keeper. Nmecha grabbed the third, and his first at this level, around the half hour mark, bundling in a rebound after Glendon had stung the keeper's hands from twenty yards. He had his second soon after, stabbing him from inside the six yard area after some good work down the right. City went in four nil at half time. Truthfully, it could have been more.
Predictably, the second half was considerably more low-key. Think the first team's display against Sunderland. First half drubbings usually end up this way. We've seen it a thousand times before - the losing team tighten up, the winning side take their foot off the gas and the sting's well and truly removed from the tie. This was no exception. There was the odd moment of life as City's passing machine sporadically sputtered into life again, and there was a couple of goals too to warm the crowd up as the cold began to bite, but in general both sides went through the motions. Middlesbrough did manage to pull one back, taking advantage of some questionable defending, though it only seemed to wake City up from their self-imposed slumber. We quickly restored our four goal advantage, the two subs Demeaco Duhaney and David Faupala combining well, the latter toe-poking home from a whipped cross. It was to be the final real moment of note as City closed the game out to put last weekend's torrid 3-0 capitulation against Sunderland behind them with a performance of real quality.
It was an interesting lineup too. After his brief spell on the sidelines, Gunn returned in goal and the back four was made up of Pablo Maffeo, Cameron Humphreys, Ellis Plummer, fresh from a trial at Walsall, and Ashley Smith-Brown. In midfield Aleix Garcia was partnered by George Glendon and Will Patching and Thierry Ambrose and Bersant Celina lined up either side of Lukas Nmecha. Patching was sumptuous, gliding through midfield knitting together countless passes with his midfield partners and causing all sorts of trouble. It was a real coming of age performance from the u18s regular and it could cement his position as an EDS member. Manu Garcia could have a fight on his hand's when he returns from first team duty, put it that way. The other Garcia, Aleix, clearly revelled in Patching's presence and he was once again an intelligent, impressive performer, cleverly recycling possession and controlling the flow of the game from his deep-lying position. If there's doubts to his game, its in his defensive work but he was considerably better here than his previous outings. Encouraging.
Glendon alongside them played his part, feverishly working up and down and he grabbed an assist too, albeit by means of a parried shot by the keeper, but he deserved some form of statistical reward for his efforts. Ambrose toiled hard, though it was a mixed performance. There was some good, as ever, and he did everything right 90% of the time. He just often fell at the final hurdle, sometimes literally too, slipping when put through, uncharacteristically losing his composure as he found space. Celina was a buzzing, bright performer on the left, grabbing a goal for efforts and coolly linking up with Patching. He sprayed some delight cross field balls as well, notably in the first half where he found Ambrose on the right wing repeatedly. Nmecha had a strong game. Another natural at this level, he deserved the hat trick that sadly just alluded him. His goals were both instinctive efforts, scuffing in rebounds as he was the first to react as the ball broke free. Forwards goals, and a skill you simply can't teach. His hold-up play was good too, bringing others into the game and linking play intelligently with the onrushing midfielders.
Defensively we were rarely tested, and in general it was a solid performance. There was a few sloppy moments, Humphreys selling Gunn short in the second half, which most likely lead to his departure as Duhaney came on and Maffeo stepped into the middle, and the whole defence switched off too as Middlesbrough grabbed their (predictable) consolation, but it was a composed display overall. The centre-halves passed well, Humphreys stepping into midfield confidently and Plummer linking up well with his left-back, and Smith-Brown and Maffeo and Smith-Brown got forward wherever they could. In general it was a stroll in the park for all involved. Gunn too, his only real save coming at the end of the first half as he tipped a decent long range effort over the bar. He had no chance with the goal. Faupala made a nice little cameo, working hard down the right, grabbing his first goal, deftly flicking a wonderful whipped cross from Duhaney in off the post. Kean Bryan was a solid introduction and Duhaney continued his fantastic start to the season at all levels, grabbing the earlier mentioned assist.
This was all without regulars Barker, Manu Garcia and George Evans too. With the injuries, i'd expect two of them to be involved with the first team tomorrow alongside Patrick Roberts. Most likely two will make the bench. However, next up for most of this team is the Uefa Youth League as they travel to Borrussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday as they look to build on the thumping 4-1 victory against Juventus last week. Long before that for myself however, it's the u18s tomorrow morning as they take on Stoke City at the CFA as they look to extend their lead at the top of table before they face Everton the week ever. As ever, a report will follow on here.