Derby County Under-23s were defeated 3-2 by Manchester City on Saturday afternoon, but a late fight back almost saw the Rams take something from the Academy Stadium.
Goals from Felix Nmecha, Lorenzo Gonzalez and Benjamin Garre gave City a commanding lead, but strikes from Josh Shonibare, fresh of signing a deal with the club, and Max Bird in the last 15 minutes gave the Rams some late hope.
The hosts were fastest out of the blocks and took the lead after three minutes. Midfielder Nmecha worked space well and sent a dipping strike into the net from just outside the area.
Derby tried to create something of their own with a spell of pressure, but City would soon double their lead. Striker Gonzalez raced beyond the Rams’ defence and finished coolly past Josh Barnes.
A decent opportunity to pull a goal back for Derby came midway through the first-half. Calum MacDonald put in a dangerous free-kick delivery that caused panic, but the hosts would eventually clear their lines.
A good spell with plenty of possession for Darren Wassall’s side came at the end of the first period but it would be City with a two-goal lead at the break.
There was a bright start to the second-half for the Rams though which perhaps hinted at a way back into the contest. Both Louie Sibley and George Thorne had early efforts from range that flew just wide of the mark.
However, City scored their third of the afternoon in the 69th minute as Garre rifled home.
The Rams were handed a lifeline just two minutes later though. Second-half substitute Shonibare rose highest to meet a cross and sent his header back across the goalkeeper into the far corner.
A potential late comeback was then truly on as Bird made it 3-2. A loose ball fell invitingly for the midfielder and he sent a superb shot curling into the far corner.
City were able to see the game out and an equalising goal from the Rams didn’t materialise.
Manchester City: Scott, Diounkou, Rosler, Harwood-Bellis, Ogbeta, Pozo, Poveda, Gomes, Gonzalez, Nmecha, Garre
Substitutes: Dele-Bashiru, Anderson, Bernabe, Ogunby
Derby County: Barnes, Bateman, Pearce, Hunt (Karic 46), MacDonald, Thorne, Sibley, Bird, McAllister, Eyoma, Cresswell
Substitutes: Mitchell-Lawson, Yates, Shonibare, Karic, Al-Hussaini
Next Friday sees the Under-23s host Paris Saint-Germain at Pride Park in the first game of their Premier League International Cup campaign.
Words by: Marc Walker