Under-18s: Middlesbrough 2 United 3
Under-18 Premier League North | Scorers: Greenwood 42, 46, Levitt 70; Walker 26, 51 pen.
Manchester United are on the brink of claiming the Under-18 Premier League North title after winning a five-goal thriller against Middlesbrough on Saturday afternoon.
Kieran McKenna’s team endured a tough first half, going 1-0 down in the 26th minute when Jakub Sinior won the ball on United’s left side and fed Stephen Walker for a close-range finish.
Middlesbrough were worthy leaders at that stage and might have doubled their advantage had Brandon Williams not bravely blocked Isaac Fletcher’s shot.
That was a crucial moment as United immediately went on the counter-attack, with Largie Ramazani’s long diagonal pass finding Mason Greenwood in the right-hand corner of Boro’s half. The no.9 had a lot to do from there but he did it in style, weaving past a couple of defenders before rifling in an excellent equaliser in the 42nd minute.
Greenwood put the league leaders ahead almost immediately after the restart, playing the ball out to Nishan Burkart on the right and then clinically converting the resulting low cross. However, Boro were back on level terms in the 51st minute after United goalkeeper Matej Kovar brought down Fletcher with a late, lunging tackle and Walker smashed home from the penalty spot.
With the sides now locked at 2-2, an end-to-end search for a winner ensued. Ramazani cut inside from the left and forced Boro goalkeeper Sol Brynn to tip the ball over with a fine save and Walker curled a shot over Kovar’s goal at the other end.
United’s decisive strike came in the 70th minute when Nishan Burkart whipped a ball in from the left, Greenwood coolly nudged it into Dylan Levitt’s path and the no.10 beat Brynn with a fine first-time finish.
Moments later, Burkart attacked the same area of Middlesbrough’s defence again and almost grabbed what would have been a a glorious fourth goal for United. Instead, Brynn managed to flick the fierce rising strike onto the angle of post and crossbar.
The woodwork was struck at the other end too when Layton Watts bent a free-kick against the post as the home side pressed for another equaliser, ultimately in vain.
This impressive away victory means that only local rivals Manchester City can now match United’s current table-topping tally of 45 points. The Blues, who are presently in fourth spot and must beat the Reds as well as winning all of their games in hand, hammered Everton 6-1 at home on Saturday. Meanwhile, second-placed Liverpool dropped out of the running after losing 4-1 at West Bromwich Albion.
United: Kovar, Tanner, Dunne, Bernard, B. Williams, Garner, Galbraith (McGhee 86), Burkart (Mellor 82), Levitt, Ramazani (Baars 68), Greenwood. Substitutes not used: Fojtíček, Laird.
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