Southampton Under-18s put on a good show in front of a 13,035 strong home crowd at St Mary’s on Thursday night but were beaten 2-1 by Manchester City in the National Under-18s Premier League final.
Saints opened the scoring early on through Kami Doyle, but two goals in response from Manchester City forward Tai Sodje and Adedire Mebude before half-time proved crucial.
Despite playing in front of the big home crowd, Saints started the game confidently and had the first shot on target in the eighth minute when Kami Doyle’s long-range effort forced a comfortable save from Man City goalkeeper Josh McNamara.
Saints’ pressing from the front then played a big part in the opening goal when Doyle opened the scoring with 16 minutes played.
Striker Luke Pearce charged down a clearance from keeper McNamara and an intelligent pass into Doyle from Cameron Bragg allowed the forward to curl in smartly having shifted the ball onto his right foot.
Despite the strong start from the hosts, City responded immediately and equalised in the 23rd minute when a low Adedire Mebude cross along the six-yard line was turned home at the near post by Tai Sodje.
Saints were now struggling to retain possession and a superb second goal on the counter from City soon had them 2-1 ahead.
A pinpoint, cross-field ball from Carlos Borges played Adedire Mebude into a promising position and the winger’s driving run towards goal ended with his finishing smartly across Saints goalkeeper Eddie Beach.
City kept their slender advantage until the half-time interval, but Saints looked to hit their stride once again after the break.
A lively start to the second period saw Saints midfielder Ryan Finnigan heavily involved at both ends of the pitch.
First, he stopped Carlos Borges adding a third for the visitors with an excellent challenge in his own penalty area and then fired an effort from range wide having been teed up outside the City box.
Carl Martin’s and Mikey Harris’ hosts started to cause City some real problems with their attacking movement as a host of good openings were created.
A sustained period of pressure for Saints saw Luke Pearce, Diamond Edwards and substitute Jimmy Morgan all have efforts well dealt with by City, and a smart save from Eddie Beach at the other end of the pitch again denied Carlos Borges from finding the net.
Diamond Edwards – fresh from a strong run of goalscoring form at the end of the Premier League South season – was next to go close to an equaliser for Saints.
His clipped effort on the turn from the right side of the area seemed destined for the top corner, but the ball dropped agonisingly wide of the far post with Josh McNamara rooted to the spot between the sticks.
City soon regained some composure though and went within inches of adding their third of the night.
Carlos Borges and Adedire Mebude combined, as they had done consistently throughout the game, and the former grazed the bar with a left footed shot from the 18-yard line that had Saints goalkeeper Eddie Beach worried.
Five minutes of stoppage time gave the hosts some hope of a late equaliser that their second-half performance would have perhaps deserved, but City were able to see out their win and were crowned national Under-18 champions.