Manchester United 4 Bayer Leverkusen 3
James Wilson scored a dramatic winner for United as the young Reds overhauled a 3-2 deficit to grab victory with only ten men through his 89th minute penalty.
A game full of incident started off positively, with the Reds 2-0 up after only ten minutes through a typically decisive finish from Wilson and an excellent solo run and goal from Ben Pearson. However, a combination of Leverkusen’s persistence and some poor defending allowed the Germans to go in level at half time thanks to two goals from Brasnic, the second the result of Ioannou – who was otherwise United’s best defender – losing his footing on the wet surface.
It got worse for the Reds when Leverkusen took the lead just after the hour. This time it was Wagener who took advantage of confusion in the United midfield, latching on to a stray ball and firing calmly past Gollini. With United’s most impressive player Ben Pearson having left the field through injury, it appeared the game had turned decisively in Leverkusen’s direction, but this is a team managed by Nicky Butt, aided in the dugout by his old mate Paul Scholes, and thus steeped in a never-say-die spirit that rubbed off on their young charges. United pressed for an equaliser and, when Byrne’s shot was parried, Pereira pounced on the rebound to make it 3-3 and leave the game finely balanced going into the final twenty minutes.
It appeared the best United might get from the encounter was a hard-fought draw when Paddy McNair was send off after receiving a second yellow. In the Under-18 domestic league game, it’s almost certain McNair would have remained on the pitch, but harsher refereeing may well be something United’s youngsters will need to become familiar with in this competition and here it left the Reds mounting a desperate rearguard action as Leverkusen pressed for a winner.
A United victory looked unlikely at this stage but, following an upfield defensive clearance, Wilson took the ball and, ignoring the calls of Sam Byrne for a cross-field pass, ran at the German defence before being crudely blocked in the area. Wilson himself stepped up to crash the ball home from the spot and the Reds gained a winner that was a triumph for the spirit shown after going down to ten men, albeit one that won’t remove questions regarding whether we’re defensively sound enough to go all the way in this competition. Doubtless Leverkusen will leave Salford with the same concerns, and without any points.