Report: Blues Under-23s 4-2 Middlesbrough Under-23s
Blues Under-23s cruised to a 4-2 victory over Middlesbrough on Sunday afternoon in the Premier League 2.
Steve Spooner's men were in control from the outset and recorded a third straight victory thanks to goals from Tahith Chong, Taylor Richards, George Hall and Brandon Khela.
The hosts were simply too sharp for Boro, who, despite Stephen Walker’s well taken equaliser early in the first-half, were second best throughout the contest.
Blues tormented the Teessiders and crafted a series of sublime passing moves to carve open the visitors on a number of occasions
Chong registered a further 45 minutes in his quest for match fitness, whilst it was an impressive first outing for Richards, who was also substituted at the interval.
The start was ferocious as Blues attacking talents set about the visitors.
Chong closed down Bryant Bilongo just inside Boro territory and after robbing the full-back of possession, accelerated unopposed towards goal. With plenty of time to compose himself, the Manchester United loanee faked a shot, sending ‘keeper Sol Brynn to the ground, before calmly slotting the ball into the bottom corner with just six minutes on the clock.
Despite the rapid opening, a momentary lapse in concentration allowed Middlesbrough to draw level moments later.
Joe Gibson sent a pass towards Boro striker Josh Colburn, a move which was met with a host of raised hands as Blues appealed for an offside flag. But as the backline stopped in anticipation of a whistle, midfielder Stephen Walker made a late run from a deeper position and after preventing the ball from running out of play, had the necessary time to turn and find the top corner from an acute angle.
It was a rare raid up field for Boro in what was an otherwise dominant Blues display. Wakefield looked to profit from hesitant defending but could only direct his effort straight at Brynn before Chong who regularly ventured out to the right hand side, cut in on his favoured left-foot to drag an effort wide of the post.
Referee Daniel Middleton then waved away big appeals for a penalty after Richards threaded pass appeared to strike the hand of Ben Beals.
Blues were firmly in control by the half-hour mark. Richards, Chong and Bellingham picked and probed on the edge of the box. Chang provided the anchor in midfield whilst skipper Tate Campbell, at the heart of a back three, would confidently step into the midfield area to get Blues playing.
Spooner’s men eventually regained the lead thanks to a superb individual effort by Richards. The Blues new-boy won the ball in the centre circle and burst down the middle of the pitch to create a 3-on-3 in attack. With Wakefield to his right and Bellingham to his left, Richards dropped a shoulder on the edge of the box and fired a low shot into the bottom corner.
And it was Taylor’s replacement, George Hall who added a third ten minutes into the second-half. A series of intricate one-touch passes inside the box, involving four Blues players, concluded with Hall twisting and turning away from his marker before finding the back of the net with a firm strike.
The confidence oozed from the hosts who turned on the style with some slick passing football as the game was played almost entirely in one half of the pitch.
Hall then turned provider for Blues fourth. Having received the ball on the half-turn, the 17-year-old spread the play out to Renedi Masampu whose cut back allowed substitute Brandon Khela to stride onto the ball and powerfully side foot beyond Brynn.
The goal rounds off an encouraging few weeks for Khela who was included in Lee Bowyer’s matchday squad for a recent trip to Stoke City.
Middlesbrough added a late second through Jeremy Sivi but in truth the game was well beyond Mark Tinkler’s men by that stage.
A comprehensive victory for Blues who leapfrog Sunderland in the Premier League 2 table.
Blues: Zach Jeacock, Marcel Oakley, Renedi Masampu, Tate Campbell (captain), Nico Gordon, Andre Wisdom, Tahith Chong (Brandon Khela 45), Alfie Chang (Remi Walker 82), Kieron Wakefield, Jobe Bellingham, Taylor Richards (George Hall 45).
Middlesbrough: Sol Brynn, George Gitau, Bryant Bilongo, Connor Malley, Nathan Woods, Ben Beals (Isaiah Cornet 65), Joe Gobson (captain), Jack Scott, Josh Coburn (Jeremy Sivi 63), Stephen Walker (Alberto Balde 81), Pharrell Willis.