NextGen Series match report: Villa U19 1-3 Sporting CP U19
Villa began their NextGen Series campaign with a defeat despite taking the lead against a much-fancied Sporting side.
Michael Drennan fired the hosts ahead in the Group 4 clash but the claret and blues young guns were unable to capitalise on a promising start against their Portuguese opponents.
The team from Lisbon equalised through Ecklino Ie, while Carlos Mane also scored before Tobias Figueiredo's penalty ensured all three points.
Sporting boast one of the most revered academies in European football, having nurtured the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Nani in the past.
Nevertheless, Tony McAndrew's inexperienced side showed no fear as they took the game to the visitors in the early stages.
Jack Grealish and Drennan linked up brilliantly to create two early opportunities.
The first saw Drennan latch on to a clever through ball from Grealish, but the Irish striker's low drive was pushed to safety by goalkeeper Mickael Meira.
Moments later Grealish skipped past a Sporting defender before teeing up Drennan, who headed just over the bar.
It was a case of third time lucky for Drennan on 18 minutes when he was perfectly placed at the back post to convert Josh Barton's right wing cross for the opening goal.
Other than a Iuni Medeiros angled shot which Calum Barrett tipped behind, Sporting had hardly threatened.
But they were level within seconds of Drennan's opening strike, when Ie headed in a rebound after Mane's initial effort came back off the post.
Then five minutes before the break Mane capitalised on a mix-up in the Villa defence to slot past Barrett and put Sporting ahead.
From there on Sporting took charge of the contest.
Neither side created any meaningful second-half opportunities until the hour mark when Figueiredo scored from the spot.
Mane, who was a constant nuisance to Villa's back four, surged down the left before being fouled just inside the box by Liam Bateman.
Figueiredo blasted his penalty kick into the roof of the net to put the result beyond doubt.
Drennan had another effort blocked from close range after Derrick Williams headed down Jordan Graham's corner but Villa were unable to find a way back.
VILLA: Barrett, Bateman, Devine, Williams, Calder, Barton, Ward, Melvin, Graham, Grealish, Drennan. Subs: Eminoglu [for Barton, 75], Watkins, Watkins-Clark [for Lewis, 90], Lewis [for Calder, 75], Crowley [for Ward, 82], Strain, O'Brien.
SPORTING CP: Meira, Riquicho, Figueiredo, Semedo, Pinto, Ie, Mane, Mallmann, Guedes, Rosa, Medeiros. Subs: Oliveira, Janco [for Guedes, 87], Cortez [for Mallmann, 63], Mantius [for Rosa, 75], Ponde, Santos.
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