Fulham U18s 4-3 Reading U18s
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Royals under 18s were narrowly defeated by reigning Premier League Academy Champions Fulham in a seven goal thriller at the Cottagers’ Motspur Park Training Ground.
A last gasp strike gave the home side a 4-3 victory, in a game which was largely dominated by an impressive Reading side.
Both sides came into the game with a 100% record in the league, with the match a repeat of the 2013 National Final – when Fulham triumphed at Craven Cottage in May.
The Royals were without captain Aaron Kuhl and England youth international Jake Cooper, but started brightly and took the lead early on.
Full back Nana Owusu scampered down the right wing before sending in a dangerous cross which was eventually met by Liam Kelly – who made no mistake from close range.
That lead didn’t last long, as Cottagers forward George Williams cut in from the left wing and powered a low ball into the six yard box – which cannoned off a helpless Rob Dickie and into the net.
Fulham’s dangerman Moussa Dembele, who played a huge part in their final triumph last season after joining for almost 300,000 from Paris Saint Germain, was then guilty of missing a gilt edged chance as he fired over from six yards after another stinging drive from Williams cannoned back off the post.
At the other end the Royals also had trouble with the woodwork, as midfielder Jack Stacey skipped past two white shirts – only to see his shot rebound back off the post.
1-1 it was at the break, though Reading came out of the blocks in the second half with all guns blazing; Tariqe Fosu curled just over the bar after a swift counter attack, before the winger was involved once more – slicing over from the right of the box.
But, against the run of play, Fulham grabbed a lead. That man Dembele, namesake of the former Cottagers midfielder, beating Moore to a long ball over the top before tapping into an empty net.
If the away side felt aggrieved with that, they would curse their luck more minutes later – as De’Juane Taylor-Crossdale appeared to be clearly fouled on the edge of the Fulham area, only for the referee to wave play on – allowing the home side to break up field and Dembele to bag a brace.
Not to be deterred, David Dodds made a double substitution that proved to be key – as forwards Harry Cardwell and Shpat Ismajli were thrown into the fray.
It wasn’t long until they had an impact; full back George McLennan did brilliantly to drive down the left and fizz a cross into the area, where Cardwell was ready to convert.
And Reading weren’t quite done. In a rampant spell, Cardwell was denied a second time by Fulham stopper Magnus Norman before Liam Kelly curled inches over.
The equaliser was inevitable at that stage, and full deserved as Ismajli smashed home via the inside of the post.
As stoppage time loomed the Royals looked like the only side likely to grab all three points, Ismajli saw a free-kick well saved by Norman, but they were to be cruelly denied anything for their efforts as the Cottagers took all three points.
Stopper Moore did brilliantly to parry Dembele’s fizzing drive, but was powerless to stop Williams’ thundering follw up hitting the back of the net – signalling Reading’s first defeat of the campaign.
4-3 it finished, though our youngsters should not be too disheartened after a top drawer performance against one of the country’s finest Academy set ups.
Reading: Moore, Owusu, McLennan, Dickie, Hyam (C), Watson, Husin, Kelly, Fosu (Cardwell 68), Stacey, Taylor-Crossdale (Ismajli 68)
Subs (not used): Ofori, Lawal, Collins