Despite a stunning strike from Bukayo Saka, we were knocked out of the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night after slipping to a 2-1 defeat against Portsmouth.
Freddie Ljungberg opted to start Zech Medley, Charlie Gilmour and Saka - who all made their first-team debuts in the Europa League last Thursday - while Laurent Koscielny started in the middle of a back three.
Saka had the first sight of goal when he beat his marker with a smart piece of skill inside the box, but his left-footed effort rolled straight into the gloves of Luke McGee.
Shortly after Daniel Ballard made an impressive goalline clearance to deny Anton Walkes an opener, but less than two minutes later the hosts had taken the lead from a corner.
Louis Dennis whipped in a dangerous delivery and Brett Pitman was there to apply a simple finish from close range.
Saka was then denied by McGee following a mazey ran, before Adam May struck the post for the visitors from 25 yards.
Ljungberg’s side went on to dominate possession for the remainder of the first half, but not before Ballard made another goalline clearance to deny Christian Burgess. That’s the sixth time the 19-year-old has come to his side’s rescue this season.
We showed great maturity to stifle Portsmouth’s attack in the opening stages of the second half - and in the 66th minute Saka levelled the scores with a stunning right-footed effort.
The 17-year-old received the ball on the edge of the box, beat his marker and fired the ball into the top right corner.
The hosts came close to restoring their lead when Pitman’s header struck the post and the ball bounced inside the box, but Koscielny was quick to sniff out the danger.
We continued to trouble the Pompey defence as the final whistle edged close, but in the 85th minute the hosts restored their lead through Andre Green. Dennis whipped the ball across the face of Iliev’s goal and the winger was there to finish from inside the six-yard box.
Our under-23s’ next game is against Liverpool on Saturday, December 8.
The game will take place at Liverpool FC Academy with kick-off at 3pm (UK time).
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