Man City have a fourth Portuguese star in the making after Carlos Borges makes the difference



Good players make the difference in matches – and the top players make the difference in big matches.

Manchester City have a quite brilliant trio of Portuguese stars who all fall into the latter category, in Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva.

But when the chips were down in the Blues’ under-18 clash with table-topping Blackburn today, a 17-year-old winger from the beautiful Lisbon district of Sintra gave notice that he has all the attributed to join that distinguished trio in a few years.

Carlos Borges caught the eye as City’s youngsters shrugged off the disappointment of their FA Youth Cup exit a fortnight ago by moving to the top of the Premier League Under-18 North table with a 4-0 demolition of former leaders Blackburn.

Second to the Lancashire club on goal difference before the game, and having played a game more, the City boys needed to win to not only claim top spot but also seize the initiative in the title fight.

They did so by a margin that also overturned the goal difference problem, from being five worse to three better.

It was an impressive team performance, as you might expect from a junior side expected to emulate the equality and cooperative effort that Pep Guardiola has instilled into the first team squad.

But it is a strange quirk of youth level football that, while that team ethic is espoused, it is more about individuals capable of taking the step up.

Few youth teams produce more than one, two or three players for the first team, certainly when that first team is as elite as City’s current set-up.

City’s youth team of three years ago produced the exceptional Phil Foden, but also raked in £22million from Real Madrid for Brahim Diaz and produced an England international in Jadon Sancho who cost Manchester United £73million.

More recently, Cole Palmer, Liam Delap and James McAtee represent a good return from the investment in the City Football Academy.

It is too early to judge which of the current City under-18s might be the next generation of starlets giving Guardiola something to think about, and it is hard to base any judgment on the back of one match.

There were several City youngsters who, at various points, caught the eye in a game that might have been spoiled by a fierce wind blowing diagonally across the pitch.

Keeper Josh McNamara made three vital blocks in the first half, when Blackburn’s game plan of defending deep, and well-organised, and hitting hard on the counter, seemed to be paying off.

There were attacking moments from striker Will Dickson and raiding right back Rico Lewis when they showed excellent feet and sharpness on tight areas, almost unlocking a well-drilled defense that had the best defensive record in the league until it was wrecked in a fine second half .

And there was a mature performance in the holding midfield role from 17-year-old Spaniard Mahamadou Susoho. There is a touch of Rodri about his upright, composed style on the ball, keeping it simple but also picking the occasional smart pass, and – once City had their noses in front – snuffing out most of the danger before it impacted on the back four .

But it was Borges who made the difference.

The teenager, who scored 13 goals and made 19 assists as the Blues won the Under-18 title last season, linked up with City’s academy at the age of ten after moving from Sporting Lisbon’s much-vaunted youth system.

That won him the under-18s’ player of the year award, and he is still young enough to be operating at that age group in the current campaign, although he has played four times for the under-23s.

The left winger was the main City attacking outlet in the first half as the Blues sought to find a way around the tight ranks of the Rovers defence, and his place and direct running caused plenty of problems.

He also twice came close to getting on the end of good work by right winger Dire Mebude, ranging in off his wing, Raheem Sterling-style to seek the far-post tap-in.

But Rovers stood firm, and it was the other aspect of Borges’ play – his work without the ball – that will interest Guardiola just as much.

Blackburn could not match City’s comfort on the ball and when the Blues began to press with a little more urgency and organization in the second half, Borges’ pressure paid off.

He seemed to have lost the ball as he ran at the defense but fought to win it back, and then slipped a pass to the unmarked Mebude, who fired home the opener.

That changed the complexion of the game, and when Borges again refused to give the defense time to settle, and nicked the ball off a dallying full back, he raced through and finished confidently to make it 2-0.

Susohu showed a composed finish of his own to make it three and in added time Dickson grabbed a deserved goal of his own to send the young Blues top, the title initiative firmly in their grasp.




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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