Lopes 12mins, Ambrose 90+1mins
- Match reports
- 27 April 2014 14:07
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc
City Elite Development Squad have booked their place in the last four of the Barclays u21 Premier League.
They may have left it until the final day but Patrick Vieira’s men did the business when it mattered, recording a 2-0 win over Aston Villa at a sun-kissed Etihad Stadium.
That set up a fourth place finish in the league and a meeting with Chelsea in the play-off semi-finals, erasing Fulham from the play-off picture in the process.
Captain Marcos Lopes eased any nerves by giving his side the lead with his 13th goal of the season after 12 minutes and Thierry Ambrose climbed off the bench to finish off the match one minute into additional time.
City had shown worrying symptoms of just running out of steam at the wrong time in recent weeks, with the rigours of fighting on four fronts taking their toll on what is a small and close-knit squad.
The soul-sapping 3-2 defeat to Leicester City on Wednesday night threatened to derail the Blues’ play-off charge but they had this one last chance to progress and only a win would do.
However, Ellis Plummer was singled out for praise by his manager after his performance against Leicester City, so it was no surprise to see him keep his place alongside Greg Leigh, who stepped inside from his usual left-back berth.
What City needed was a bright start to shake off their midweek disappointment and that’s just what they got, with the Blues raiding down the right wing from the first whistle.
Drury and Lopes found one another time and time again, doubling up on Villa full-back Isaac Nehem to get to the byline in an attempt to feed Jordy Hiwula in the middle.
However, it was Lopes who gave his side the lead with an imaginative outside of the foot finish on 12 minutes.
It could have been two just four minutes later after more lightning quick, telepathic interplay on the right wing but Drury’s pinpoint centre across the face of goal was flicked off Hiwula’s toes before he could profit.
Jerrell Sellars fired a warning shot from a free-kick which brought the best out of Ian Lawlor in the City goal but from there, the game lost some of its spark and, although the home side were still dominating possession, the chances dried up.
With half the job done, City began the second period as they began the first, on the front foot and pressing for a second goal to put them on the brink of play-off qualification.
Angelino had a golden opportunity to double City’s lead two minutes after the restart but his attempted dink was saved by Hill and the rebound flew agonizingly just over Hiwula’s head.
The longer the game went on, the nervier it became, with Villa clearly eager to finish their campaign on a high and dash the host’s hopes of a title tilt.
However, City should have been out of sight on the hour mark but somehow Hiwula made no contact with Bytyqi’s corner when he was left unmarked in the centre, just six yards out.
City u18s’ 22-goal top-scorer and newly-crowned Northern Premier League champion Ambrose came on with 20 minutes to go in search of his first strike at under-21 level.
He was felled in the area by the Villa goalkeeper just minutes after coming on but nothing was given and the thousand fans inside the Etihad Stadium were kept on the edge of their seats right until the final seconds.
Any nagging dread of an imminent sucker punch were dismissed when Ambrose wrapped up the match in the first minute of additional time, poking home from close range after fellow substitute Devante Cole picked him out in the middle.
City will face table-toppers Chelsea on a date to be confirmed on the website as soon as we have it.