A brave Fulham side went out of the FA Youth Cup after losing a tight fifth round tie by the barest of margins at Manchester City this evening. A fine individual goal from Lewis Fiorini settled a cagey contest, with Steve Wigley’s youngsters fighting all the way to finish.
The game started slowly, with both sides feeling each other out tentatively. Fulham fashioned the first opportunity when Sylvester Jasper’s clever free-kick almost fell for Fabio Carvalho but goalkeeper Cieran Slicker was alert to the danger and came off his line to clear. At the other end, Fulham had done well to keep City’s patient possession from threatening their goal – but they were undone by the home side’s first serious attack.
Scottish attacking midfielder Fiorini was allowed to carry the ball deep into Fulham territory having picked up possession inside his own half and curled an unstoppable finish into the top corner from just outside the box. It was a magnificent individual effort worthy of winning any contest, although Wigley will have been disappointed with his defence’s failure to close Fiorini down.
Fulham kept pushing forward and another Jasper free-kick almost delivered an equaliser before half time. This time Luca Murphy rose well at the far post but his header drifted fractionally wide of the target. Jay Stansfield then produced a superb through ball to send Jasper clear of the City defence but his tame finish was easily thwarted by Slicker.
The visitors continued to threaten after the interval with Josh Wilson-Esbrand forced into a hurried clearance to deal with a strong run from Ollie O’Neill. At the other end, the lively Jayden Braaf was a constant threat to the Fulham defence and the young Dutch winger cut inside dangerously before firing marginally wide from the edge of the area.
Braaf then presented Morgan Rivers with a glorious chance to settle the contest twelve minutes from ten. He tormented the retreating Fulham defence, embarking on a mazy run before unselfishly squaring for Rogers, who inexplicably missed the target altogether from six yards out.
Fulham roused themselves for one final assault and it looked as if they might force extra time twice at the death. First, Slicker produced a quite exceptional reaction save to kept out Jonathan Page’s strike after City failed to clear a free-kick with five minutes left. Stansfield thought he had grabbed an equaliser deep into stoppage time after bundling home from close range, but the assistant referee’s flag cut short joyous celebrations as the goal was chalked off for an offside in the build-up.
MANCHESTER CITY UNDER 18s (4-3-3): Slicker; Diounkou, Wilson-Esbrand (Robinson 77′), Doyle, McDonald; Knight (Delap 63′), Mbete-Tabu, Palmer; Fiorini, Rogers (Edozie 87′), Braaf. Subs (not used): Bazunu, McAtee, Hodge, Egan-Riley.
GOAL: Fiorini (11).
FULHAM U18s (4-3-1-2): Las; Drameh, Odutayo, McAvoy, Murphy; Carvalho, Page, O’Neill (Biereth 83); Jasper; Stansfield, Tiehi (Ablade 56). Subs (not used): Chisholm, Bowat, Williams, Pajaziti.