Mehmet Ali was pleased with elements of what he saw in our under-19s performance against PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday afternoon.
Ethan Nwaneri opened the scoring for us at Meadow Park, but a Reuell Walters own goal and a 70th-minute finish from Jason van Duiven saw the away side take all three points.
“It’s great learning for our players,” Mehmet said post-match. “I felt we had more than enough opportunities and chances to win the game. We didn’t take them and I think, at this level, if you don’t do that, you can always lose the game, so that was frustrating.
“I thought we created some really good moments, especially in the first half, and played some good football, but again, against this level of opposition, it will always be difficult, and I thought they did well. Credit to them, I thought it was two teams going toe-to-toe. A lot of players cramped up and tired towards the end, but great learning and we’re lucky we get to play them again in a couple of weeks’ time.”
After weathering an early storm from PSV, we sprung into life around the half-hour mark, surging forward more and creating chances, ultimately culminating in Nwaneri’s opener.
“It was good play from the boys,” Mehmet added. “I thought we had some really good moments, I thought we started the game better out of the two teams. We got into good areas and then they had a little spell, they controlled the game well, but we always looked dangerous when we won it and I thought we had some really good individuals on show today where they skipped past people and made something happen. We had a lot of exciting players on show and that’s why we got our reward and our goal.
“It’s a shame, at that moment, we went down to ten men because of the player coming off with an injury. We had a chance to make it 2-0 which we didn’t take and they went down the other end and credit to their winger, I thought he did well to come in and get his shot off. It was a deflected shot but they took their chance and scored.”
Both goals were deflected, in fact, with PSV’s second a free-kick that hit our defensive wall on the way in.
“It was two deflected shots but I also thought PSV did get in some good areas and they had opportunities that, when they watch the game back, they will look at and felt they should’ve scored, so I thought maybe a draw was a fair result but they’ve gone and won it so credit to them,” Mehmet accepted. “We’ll look back at it and go again.”
Despite the result, Mehmet was encouraged by the opportunity to play a different style of opponent in the UEFA Youth League to those we would normally face in Premier League 2.
“It’s great for our boys, it’s great for their development,” he explained. “Obviously, we’ve got a very good games programme in England, but the boys they played today, I was talking to the PSV staff before the game and they see this as one of their top groups. They’ve had a lot of success from under-15 all the way up to where they are now.
“A lot of them play against men on a weekly basis in the PSV B team, so when you expose our players to that it’s brilliant and I thought our boys did really well against that. We rose to that challenge and there were lots of positive performances today, but not the result we wanted.”
Up next for Mehmet’s under-21s, it’s a quick turnaround as we travel to Manchester United to get back into PL2 action on Saturday.
“We go again,” he said. “We always say, after a loss, the next best thing is to have another game. We’ve got a couple of lads that have not been involved in this competition that will be involved on Saturday and some of these guys have got to make sure they rest up, get the hydration and sleep and go straight onto Man United away.”
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