MAN CITY 1, BENFICA 2
Manchester City under-19’s were the architects of their own downfall as they lost to Benfica in the quarter finals of the UEFA Youth League.
City took an early lead at Hyde in front of a 4,014 crowd and looked on course for a semi-final showdown against Real Madrid until the Portuguese side staged a remarkable comeback late in the game.
Patrick Vieira’s side had only itself to blame as it failed to turn its superiority into goals as they ought to have been out of sight before Benfica scored twice in the last 15 minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
City were unlucky as they twice struck the woodwork late on while they also came up against a keeper, 19-year-old Thierry Graca who played a blinder.
City took the lead in the 12th minute through a spectacular strike from French midfield man Seko Fofana whose 25-yard drive arrowed into the top corner.
Graca, who comes from Cape Verde, pulled off super stops to deny Sinan Bytyqi and Jason Denayer to ensure City held a slender 1-0 interval lead.
City’s play became more scrappy and disjointed in the second period as they carelessly gave away possession as Benfica became more of a threat.
The equaliser came in the 75th minute when Goncalo Guedes smashed home a 25-yard shot low to the left of keeper Billy O’Brien.
Devante Cole, son of former United striker Andy, forced a fine save from Graca and then struck an upright as City came agonisingly close to regaining lead.
Benfica provided a sting as they took the lead against the run of play eight minutes from time when City failed to clear a left-wing cross as Estrela fired home from the right side of the box.
City laid siege to the Benfica goal in the latter stages when they were desperately unlucky not to force a penalty shootout.
Marcos Lopes was denied by Graca’s heroics and then the striker saw his corner land on the crossbar.
Graca saved the best to last as he made a breathtaking double save in stoppage time to deny Lopes yet again and also keep out Cole’s follow-up shot.
The City players sank to the ground distraught at the final whistle as they could scarcely believe they had lost a game they dominated.