Fosu 71mins, Stacey 74mins
- Match reports
- 19 April 2014 16:55
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc / pics by @vhaydn_mcfc
It was cup final heartbreak for City EDS at the Madejski Stadium as they went down 4-3 to Reading on aggregate.
Two goals in three second half minutes reversed the 3-2 lead City had taken down to Berkshire with them and ensured that Patrick Vieira’s men finished as inaugural Premier League cup runners-up.
Tariqe Fosu and Jack Stacey were the Royals’ heroes with goals in the 71st and 74th minute respectively and despite a late cavalry charge, City couldn’t find the goal that would have taken the tie to extra-time.
Leading 3-2 from the first leg, the Blues travelled to the home of the Royals aiming to claim the club’s first silverware at under-21 level since the Manchester Senior Cup win in 2010.
Over the course of the campaign we’ve seen this EDS side play with a daring abandon - completing thrilling fightbacks, laying waste to defences in routs, digging in with ten men, but this was another type of challenge.
For a long time in Berkshire, the match seemed to be petering out into a goalless draw which would have seen City crowned champions but in three fateful minutes it was snatched away, leaving the Blues to rue a string of missed chances in the first hour.
Vieira made one change from the line-up that took to the field in the first leg, swapping in Seko Fofana for Sinan Bytyqi – a change which saw captain Marcos Lopes start the match out on the right flank in support of top-scorer Jordy Hiwula.
Though Reading’s seniors may be in the Championship, their academy is a force to be reckoned with as they showed by reaching the FA Youth Cup semi-finals this season.
Twice already this season they’ve proved to be stubborn opposition for the Blues at this level, too, with City needing to come from behind to claim one-goal wins on both occasions.
As is so often the case in cup finals with so much at stake, the game was a bitty, scrappy affair in the early exchanges, with both sides recognising how important an opening goal might be.
Perhaps it was part of Vieira’s gameplan to operate at a slightly slower pace than normal to ensure domination of possession and draw the sting from a home side who had looked so dangerous and incisive in the first-leg on the counter-attack.
Lopes did work the goalkeeper after six minutes with a thumped shot from the edge of the area but that was about it at either end for the opening 25 minutes of sparring.
Olivier Ntcham grew increasingly influential in the contest and he was the orchestrator behind the best move of the first half an hour.
The Parisian read a pass out of the opposition defence and quickly laid off the ball to Cole who drove at Sean Long before unleashing a brilliant drive from 20 yards out but it missed the far post by inches, with keeper Dan Lincoln soundly beaten.
Vieira’s men were racking up the chances but, with many of them coming from long range, Reading were happy enough to trust their goalkeeper and stay within a goal’s striking range.
City’s last three Premier League cup ties have finished 3-2 in their favour but a repeat of that scoreline never looked on the cards.
A goal for the away side in the second half would surely have eased all of the pressure out of the situation and would perhaps have paved the way for more but the Royals were standing firm and, like in the first-leg, began to bare their teeth on their infrequent counters.
Both Liam Kelly and Jack Stacey had opportunities to level the tie but City always seemed to find a man to make the crucial last ditch interception when numbers were caught up the field.
Cole had an excellent chance to score what may have been a clincher after 65 minutes but he opted for placement over power and his sidefooted effort at the back post was gathered at the second time of asking by Lincoln.
With the tie on a knife edge, City were made to pay for their profligacy with just under 20 minutes to go when second half substitute Tariqe Fosu dropped a shoulder and fired in at the near post – a goal out of nothing to send the home supporters into raptures.
Three minutes later and the hosts were leading.
Greg Leigh’s unfortunate slip allowed Stacey a clear run in on goal and the winger capitalised, rounding Lawlor and slotting into the empty net.
Vieira’s response was immediate, throwing Angelino and Bytyqi on to try and find the goal that would take the game to extra-time.
As the minutes dwindled, City grew increasingly desperate, throwing balls into the box but the hulking Royals backline always seemed to win the first and second balls.
Lawlor went up for a late Angelino free-kick into the area but the ball just wouldn’t break and Reading held on to claim the first-ever u21 Premier League cup.
City will hope to channel their disappointment into a positive reaction in their final two league games as a play-off spot is still within grasp.