Barclays U-21 Premier League
Monday 3 December
St Mary’s Stadium
MANCHESTER UNITED 1
United’s Under-21s drew 1-1 with Southampton in an action-packed affair at St Mary’s with Sam Johnstone saving Tadanari Lee’s late penalty.
In front of almost 1,800 fans on the South Coast, the Reds were the better side in the first half but went behind to a Lee spot-kick. Federico Macheda levelled matters on 81 minutes but all looked lost when Jesse Lingard was sent off for handling on the line soon afterwards. It was left to Johnstone, something of an expert at saving penalties, to emerge as the hero with a superb save.
The hosts almost went ahead in the first minute when a Ryan Tunnicliffe slip let in Emmanuel Mayuka but Johnstone made a decent stop to thwart the Zambian. Gradually, United gained control but passed up a host of opportunities to lead before the break.
Macheda probably had the best opening but fired the wrong side of the far post after a tremendous move involving Larnell Cole and Davide Petrucci. A Sean McGinty cross from the left brushed a post and Cody Cropper made a couple of good stops to frustrate the hard-working Angelo Henriquez.
Lingard, back from a loan spell at Leicester, also had a couple of chances but side-footed wide after good work by Henriquez and again worked Cropper while the keeper was extended when a Cole cross was deflected goalwards.
Despite all the pressure, the Saints improved in the second half and enjoyed a dominant spell. Ben Reeves’ free-kick flew wide with Johnstone motionless and the home skipper then saw a shot deflect off target.
The penalty was awarded in the 55th minute when Macheda survived an appeal for handball but Tadanari Lee went down under a challenge by Marnick Vermijl. Lee stepped up to send Johnstone the wrong way from the spot.
As things became a little fractious, some fans thought another Reeves free-kick had entered the net but, in fact, it dipped just over the top. United struggled to respond but Tom Thorpe wasted a glorious opportunity when heading a Petrucci set-piece over the bar.
Warren Joyce introduced Bebe for Henriquez but the Portugal Under-21 international could only smash in a wayward finish after Macheda forced an instinctive stop out of Cropper from the substitute’s driven centre.
An equaliser arrived with nine minutes left thanks to Macheda. The Italian striker initially won the ball but Tunnicliffe burst onto it to show great desire by driving forward to tee up Lingard. The winger’s shot was pushed out by Cropper but Macheda gobbled up the rebound in clinical fashion.
There was real drama a couple of minutes later from a Reeves corner even though Jack Stephens looked guilty of pushing McGinty into Johnstone. With the keeper out of the picture, a scramble ensued and Lingard cleared off the line before McGinty headed away. The officials did well to spot a handball by Lingard and he was dismissed.
However, Johnstone preserved a point with a tremendous reflex save to keep out Lee’s driven penalty and leave United still in with a chance of qualifying for the elite phase going into the final group game at Aston Villa next Monday night.
United: Johnstone; Vermijl, Thorpe, Fornasier, McGinty; Cole, Tunnicliffe, Petrucci, Lingard; Macheda (Veseli 94), Henriquez (Bebe 70). Subs not used: J.Pereira, Lawrence, Ekangamene.