By Rob Britton.
There was little to separate both teams in the end as Manchester United’s U21s could only take a point at home against a defiant Stoke City.
With only five minutes on the clock the visitors took an early lead when James Alabi collected an attempted clearance by Michele Fornasier. The Stoke youngster ran confidently into space and from 20 yards from goal placed the ball into the bottom right hand corner to put the Potters ahead.
A disappointing start for United, who had suffered only one defeat prior to tonight’s encounter against league leaders Tottenham Hotspur.
Alabi nearly extended Stoke’s lead with a screamer from 35-40 yards out, only for Sam Johnstone to tip the ball onto the bar with his fingertips. Despite letting in an early goal, Johnstone was a key figure throughout the game, stopping chances from Alabi and Karim Rossi.
As a result of poor passing Warren Joyce’s team struggled to stamp any authority on proceedings. Nick Powell looked the most likely for United, with the new summer recruit displaying touches of quality and perhaps the first sign of his true potential since his arrival from Crewe Alexandra. Powell capped off an excellent first half performance moments before half time when he scored a sensational solo goal. Deep in Stoke’s half near the corner flag he skipped past two defenders, then cleverly swerved past another inside in the penalty area before prodding the ball past Dale Eve from a tight angle.
Belgian youngster Adnan Januzaj also showed signs of promise throughout the first half, with magnificent touches, and great vision for an attacking move whenever possible.
Referee Hiroyuki Kimura had to bring back a couple of scrappy fouls from Stoke, as fireworks outside the stadium created a muggy fog which was difficult for everyone to watch the game.
As the fog still surrounded the pitch at Moss Lane, United started the second half with greater urgency to score the next goal, but Eve remained on top form throughout and was focused on not conceding, despite early efforts from Powell and Federico Macheda.
Powell and Larnell Cole had the only real goal scoring opportunities as the game petered out, as United were unable to get men forward in order break away with incisive counter attacks.
The game on whole was a scrappy affair due to the playing conditions, but there were sparks of magnificence from Alabi and Powell. United will look to improve their passing and get back to their regular scoring habits, as they face a strong Newcastle United side next Monday.
Latest Manchester United U21s statistics here.
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