Manchester United took on Premier League 2 table toppers Everton at Leigh Sports Village. Courtney Duffus gave Everton the lead towards the end of the first half. Demetri Mitchell scored from the penalty spot to level the scores before substitute Bassala Sambou scored twice, once from open play and once from the penalty spot to give Everton the three points.
Since the last game at this level, U23s regular Sean Goss has left the club following a permanent transfer to Queens Park Rangers, while Joe Riley joined Sheffield United on loan until the end of the season. The defence was also without Regan Poole who was serving a suspension for a red card.
Eric Bailly, who returned from the African Cup of Nations this week, dropped down to partner Axel Tuanzebe in the heart of defence. Tuanzebe who captained the side and goalkeeper Joel Pereira had made their first team debuts the day before against Wigan in the FA Cup win over Wigan.
Within ten minutes the referee Joe Johnson from Merseyside had awarded the Toffees a penalty. It was a good spot by the referee to see the challenge from Matthew Olosunde on Anton Donkor which took place in the top corner of the United penalty area. Liam Walsh stepped up to take the spot-kick but Joel Pereira was on hand to make the save and then smother the ball.
There were a couple of shouts for handball in the penalty areas at either end of the pitch. First against Josh Harrop and later in the first half against Matthew Foulds. Either would have been harsh calls on the players and the referee didn’t give either.
United struggled to clear the ball from the defence on a couple of occasions and did well to withstand pressure from Everton. The visitors did have the better of the chances in the first half. Donkor was unmarked at the back post and United, particularly Olosunde, breathed a sigh of relief when he was surprised that the ball fell at his feet and skied the shot.
However, Courtney Duffus also found himself unmarked with only minutes remaining in the first half. Bailly left him free on the edge of the penalty area and the striker had the time and space to get a lovely ball from Liam Walsh under control and steadied for a shot which went past Joel Pereira into the back of the net.
Early in the second half United were awarded a penalty. This time offender turned victim with Olosunde brought down by Matthew Pennington. Josh Harrop took the penalty but he opted for power and sent the ball high into the stands.
Ten minutes later the referee had awarded the third penalty of the evening, and it was a case of third time lucky. Demetri Mitchell went on a great run into the box and was fouled. The attacker-turned-fullback claimed the ball and took the spot-kick that he won. He placed it well into the bottom left hand corner of the goal.
Bailly picked up a knock just before the hour mark and was replaced by Tyrell Warren. Word from the bench was that the substitution was a precaution with the aim being to protect Bailly for first team matches.
Everton made a double substitution with Bassala Sambou and Nathan Broadhead and that switch had the desired impact. Just two minutes later Sambou turned past Warren and fired into the back of the net to let Everton retake the lead. He doubled his goal tally for the night and the goal cushion just eight minutes later from the penalty spot after he was fouled.
United continued trying to press forward but it wasn’t enough. Harrop came closest with a lovely effort from distance. He controlled the ball, turned and struck the ball well. He beat Mateusz Hewelt but couldn’t beat the crossbar.
Man United: J. Pereira, Olosunde, Tuanzebe (c), Bailly (Warren 58′), Mitchell, Scott, Kehinde, Redmond, Harrop, Gribbin (Buffonge 81′), McTominay.
Unused Substitutes: O’Hara, El Fitouri, Hamilton.
Goal(s): Mitchell (57′ pen).
Booking(s): Scott (36′), J. Pereira (78′).
Everton: Hewelt, Kenny, Foulds, Walsh (Kiersey 71′), Feeney, Pennington, Dowell, Charsley, Duffus (Sambou 67′), Dyson (Broadhead 67′), Donkor.
Unused Substitutes: Hunt, Yates.
Goal(s): Duffus (43′), Sambou (70′, 78′ pen).
Booking(s): Foulds (34′).