Barclays U-21 Premier League
MANCHESTER UNITED 1
(Thorpe 47, Lawrence 65)
United pulled out the stops to secure a hard-fought 2-1 success at Newcastle in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.
Despite being second-best at times, Warren Joyce’s side went ahead with a Tom Thorpe header and, after conceding an equaliser to Conor Newton, substitute Tom Lawrence grabbed a winner that sends the Reds above their opponents in the table.
A flat first half saw United fail to trouble Jak Alnwick in the home goal while the Magpies made a promising start. Xisco forced a diving stop out of Jonny Sutherland after only 32 seconds and there was a scare from a Marcus Maddison corner that drifted just past the far post.
Bebe got his shot all wrong after some tigerish work by Larnell Cole but the Reds struggled to get any sight of goal despite the game’s outstanding player Thorpe leading by example as a powerhouse presence in midfield. Newcastle looked the likelier scorers but Brad Inman and Romain Amalfitano could only shoot at Sutherland following threatening breaks.
Xisco was guilty of a bad miss when scooping over the top after being teed up by Mehdi Abeid as Willie Donachie’s side monopolised the chances in the opening half. Federico Macheda collected a pass from Adnan Januzaj but hammered a left-foot shot well off target and Bebe saw an effort loop over via a deflection but Alnwick headed into the interval totally untested.
Yet it took United less than two minutes to break the deadlock at the start of the second period. Januzaj flighted over a corner from the left that allowed skipper Thorpe to rise and despatch a top-class header past Alnwick and into the corner of the net.
The Tynesiders’ immediate response was a Newton drive that fizzed well wide and Warren Joyce shuffled his pack by moving Bebe into a central attacking role and replacing Macheda with Lawrence. An equaliser arrived just before the hour-mark when a debatable free-kick was awarded against Lawrence and Maddison’s set-piece was spilled by Sutherland to allow Newton to snap up a simple opportunity.
As Newcastle continued to attack with menace, few would have backed United to regain the lead but Joyce’s side showed their character by scoring again. Another Januzaj corner eventually fell to Michele Fornasier, who sensibly fired the ball across for substitute Lawrence to touch home from close range.
Bebe squandered a gilt-edged opening to effectively wrap up the points when he raced clear on Alnwick’s goal. The assistant referee’s offside flag was rightly over-ruled as the last touch had come off a Newcastle player but, as everybody else stopped, the Portuguese import made a total hash of his finish by smashing a wayward drive.
Bebe was closer to a clincher when hooking a volley wide after a Lawrence free-kick fell to him while Yven Moyo headed inches off target at the other end. United pressed with more conviction towards the end and were relatively comfortable in seeing out the closing stages until Abeid forced a fine save out of Sutherland in stoppage time.
United: Sutherland; Veseli, Wootton, Fornasier, Vermijl; Januzaj (Ekangamene 76), Thorpe, Tunnicliffe, Cole, Bebe (Hendrie 90); Macheda (Lawrence 54). Subs not used: James, J.Pereira.