By Connor Armstrong
A 12-minute first-half hat-trick from Reiss Nelson saw our under-18s beat Blackburn Rovers 5-1.
Nelson opened the scoring by twisting and turning before whipping a fierce strike into the top corner after just eight minutes, before holding his nerve to finish after an inviting pass from Joe Willock.
Nelson’s quick feet and good interplay with Marcus McGuane led to the midfielder rolling the ball between the legs of the goalkeeper to complete his hat-trick.
Bradley Lynch pulled one back for the hosts when he followed in after Joao Virginia had saved his initial effort, before the half ended with Donyell Malen getting on the scoresheet.
Malen found the net again in the second half after a through ball from Vlad Dragomir, before rattling the post as he looked for a hat-trick of his own.
SETTING THE SCENE
Virginia started in goal, with Alex Crean on the bench.
Jordi Osei-Tutu, Joseph Olowu, Zech Medley and Tolaji Bola completed the back four.
McGuane and Josh Dasilva - wearing the captain’s armband - started in central midfield.
Malen led the line, supported by Yassin Fortune, Nelson and Willock.
After Blackburn had eliminated our under-18s from the FA Youth Cup, a response was to be expected and was duly delivered with a first-half blitz at Rovers Training Centre.
Nelson’s quick thinking saw him take a couple of players out of the game with quick footwork before bending an effort inside the far post.
Nelson found the net again soon after, racing on to a Willock pass before steadying himself and firing into the net.
His hat-trick was completed in just under 12 minutes, with quick combination play with McGuane on the edge of the area leaving him able to roll the ball through the legs of the goalkeeper.
Lynch pulled one back for Blackburn, but Malen rounded off the half with a composed drive across goal to send us in at the break with a 4-1 lead.
The second half didn’t quite live up to the billing of the first, but we extended our lead when substitutes Eddie Nketiah and Dragomir combined to release Malen to charge through and score his second goal of the game.
Nketiah then forged another opening for Malen, leading a break in the right channel after a ball forward from Jordi Osei-Tutu.
Malen’s eventual shot would cannon off the post, denying him a hat-trick of his own.
It’s now three straight wins for Kwame Ampadu’s group, who have scored 13 games in their last three outings.
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