A CLASSY Manchester City outfit proved too strong for Stoke City’s Elite Development Squad as the Potters were defeated 4-1 in Friday night’s Barclays Under-21s Premier League clash.
Jose Angel Pozo was the star of the show for the home team, scoring once and getting two assists, while a Dedrick Boyata own goal provided Stoke’s only moment of consolation at Hyde FC’s Ewen Fields stadium.
They were consigned to the defeat by further strikes from Devante Cole, Albert Rusnak and Denis Suarez as the Premier League champions’ youngsters proved their credentials in style.
As has been the story for many of their matches this season, Dave Kevan’s men held their own for the first third of the game but were eventually overrun as legs tired.
They began with Marcel Barrington in the starting eleven after a lengthy injury lay-off, while John Marsden operated in a lone forward role after James Alabi’s loan move to Scunthorpe United on Thursday.
Manchester City fielded a formidable-looking line-up, with the highly-rated former Real Madrid youngster Pozo up top and first-team fringe player Boyata in central defence.
Stoke started reasonably well and after good work from Barrington in the fourth minute, Marsden had a reverse header that he struggled to get any power on and it was a comfortable save for Eirik Johansen.
On a bobbly pitch, the home team showed their technical skill by dominating possession in the opening quarter of an hour, but Stoke held their shape well and frustrated the Citizens, with Rusnak having a speculative effort held by Dan Bachmann on 12 minutes.
After Adam Thomas won a free-kick on 19 minutes, Ed Sanders was unlucky to see his header fly wide for the Potters after rising well to meet Jordan Richardson’s delivery, while Thomas himself had a clever backward header that kept Johansen on his toes.
Despite their wealth of possession, Bachmann was hardly being troubled in the goal and Stoke looked more incisive in the final third with Barrington stinging Johansen’s gloves and Kris Scott stumbling over the ball at the critical moment just before the half hour.
However, Man City eventually broke through and took the lead on 33 minutes – Pozo found Denis Suarez with an excellent through ball, and his square pass was skilfully back-heeled into the net, via a deflection, by Cole.
Buoyed by taking the lead, the home team looked more fluid in the final third and Pozo himself nearly scored but his drilled shot from the left went just wide of the far post before Marcos Lopez had Bachmann stretching five minutes before the break.
Stoke were dealt a hammer blow on 42 minutes, though, when the hosts doubled their advantage in fortunate circumstances.
The ever-influential Pozo found space on the left once again and picked out Rusnak, whose shot deflected into the bottom corner, leaving Bachmann with little chance.
To cap a dramatic end of the half, Stoke got one back, though – Adam Thomas sprinted down the right and fired in a low cross that Boyata looked to smash into his own net although Marsden’s presence certainly played a part in the goal.
The high tempo continued straight after half-time and Bachmann was forced into a good reaction stop on 47 minutes after Lopez found himself in acres of space in the penalty box.
They re-established their two goal lead on 51 minutes, however, with the ball breaking free to Pozo in the area, who finished clinically into the bottom right hand corner.
Man City looked hungry for more, and the direct Pozo made yet more space on his trusted left-hand side yet Suarez didn’t make the most of his generous pass as he blazed over.
They nearly paid for it moments later up the other end – Scott’s corner for Stoke was headed towards goal by Ben Heneghan, and Marsden managed to flick the ball on just in front of Johansen but it drifted over the crossbar.
City’s wealth of attacking talent meant Stoke didn’t see too much of the ball as the half wore on, and the hosts earned a penalty on 77 minutes after Joel Taylor felled Shay Facey in the box.
Suarez dispatched it, although Bachmann will be disappointed not to keep it out after getting a decent hand to the ball.
Pozo was thwarted by the Austrian ‘keeper on 85 minutes as he shot for his second goal of the night, with Lopez somehow managing to blast the rebound over when it looked easier to score.
Stoke rallied in the final few moments but ultimately the quality in the hosts’ squad shone through on the night as they picked up a thoroughly-deserved three points to go top of Group 2.
Manchester City: Johansen; Facey (Bossaerts 82), Plummer, Boyata, Leigh; Huws; Rusnak, Suarez (Ntcham 78); Pozo, Cole (Evans 78), Lopez.
Stoke City: Bachmann; Rigg, Heneghan, Sanders, Taylor (Musungu 80); Thomas (Hall 73), Richardson, Ward, Scott, Barrington (Rossi 60); Marsden.