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United winners of fiesty opening U21 fixture

imageUnited’s Reserves opened the pre-season campaign with a gritty 1-0 win over Club Brugge at Leigh Sports Village.

Substitute Tom Lawrence scored the only goal of the game with 11 minutes left against a side that finished third in last season’s Belgian Pro League. Some of the challenges were far from friendly at times to ensure this was a real work-out as two players were booked and Ryan Tunnicliffe withdrawn on the referee’s orders.

The pace was furious from the start despite it being the first match of Warren Joyce’s squad’s 2013/2014 campaign with Bebe lashing an instant chance wide following some wonderful skill by Larnell Cole on the right flank. The Belgians replied with a decent effort by Lior Refaelov before some controversy at the other end.

Bebe’s shot-cum-cross drifted over Mathew Ryan but the assistant referee flagged, presumably for offside in the middle, and the referee, after consulting his fellow official, opted to rule the goal out. The ball was in the net again via Federico Macheda who had strayed too far forward after Marnick Vermijl latched onto a disguised pass by Davide Petrucci.

Brugge enjoyed a spell in the ascendancy with Maxime Lestienne bending off target and former Chelsea star Eidur Gudjohnsen, who has always enjoyed a fine record against the Reds, showing glimpses of quality as he drifted into a more attacking role.

Scott Wootton and Macheda were both booked for crunching challenges as the sparks began to fly and the match became better for it as Petrucci started to exert his influence in the middle of the park. It was the Italian’s free-kick that appeared to lead to Macheda flicking wide after Cole helped the ball on, although a corner was given.

Petrucci saw a drive blocked at the start of the second half while Scott Wootton made a tremendous saving tackle to thwart Lestienne after he was teed up by Gudjohnsen. Ryan comfortably held a curler by Petrucci and Joyce decided to make a tactical reshuffle with Cole shifting to right-back and Ben Pearson and Lawrence getting a taste of the action.

The Belgian side should really have gone ahead but spurned a couple of gilt-edged chances, firstly when Refaelov’s superb turn released Lestienne and then when Lestienne unselfishly squared to Timmy Simons. However, on both occasions, the ball was blazed wildly over Sam Johnstone’s bar.

Andreas Pereira almost carved out an opening at the other end but his delightful chipped pass was agonisingly out of the reach of Petrucci, who broke forward through the middle. Predictably, it was Petrucci who had a hand in the winner with 11 minutes left as he guided the ball into the path of Lawrence, who finished calmly, prodding beyond Ryan.

A flare-up led to the referee instructing Joyce to substitute Tunnicliffe and his replacement, the impressive Jack Barmby, almost added a second but Ryan won a one-on-one duel and Pereira’s drive from the rebound deflected for a corner. Both sets of players embraced sportingly at the end of a feisty encounter.

Report taken from

Watch the goal here