Judging from the reaction of the Manchester City players, Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat to AS Roma has hit the boys hard. Travelling to Latina, 50 miles outside the Eternal City, Patrick Vieira’s young side went through the mill, but in the end it wasn’t enough and they were eliminated from the UEFA Youth League.
The defeat comes at the same stage as last season when they lost to Benfica, and this one won’t be any easier to take.
Players will always enjoy winning games and lifting trophies because they can see progress and reward for their efforts. However, in youth football, this is not what is ultimately important.
In the long-term view, this 2-1 defeat could do the players at the club more good than if they had advanced, although it will be hard for the players to understand that at the moment.
— Brandon Barker (@BrandonBarker96) March 17, 2015
City started well and both Jose Angel Pozo and Thierry Ambrose had chances to open the scoring. After 10 minutes of dominance from the away side, Roma took charge and began to boss the majority of play in the first half.
The first lesson the City players will have to learn is with regards to discipline. Kean Bryan picked up his second yellow card in the second half, giving his team an uphill task. Moments later Thomas Vestenicky would finish from close range after a bit of a scramble in the box.
It’s not that either tackle was ridiculously bad, but the midfielder had been given a warning moments before the second yellow and needs to learn when not to grab the attention of the referee.
Jack Byrne did virtually the same thing later in the half. He had also been booked and with the Roma midfielder going nowhere, the Irishman needed to show some composure, rather than rashly putting his foot in.
City would go down to nine men, and almost instantly Lorenzo Pellegrini scored a stunning long-range goal to give the home side a two-goal cushion.
Thierry Ambrose got one back from the spot, but it was too late to stage a comeback.
The players will feel aggrieved to be knocked out, but if they learn some vital lessons from this defeat, it will be worth it in the long run. It all becomes part of the plan that Vieira mentioned pre-game on the Manchester City website:
"I think our job is to help the boys improve and how we can make them a better player, and make them grow up," he said. "To make them understand that talent is not enough. If you want to be there with the first-team, you have to work hard."
Progression is always nice, but seeing players develop and move on to the first-team would be more important that youth team trophies.