Derby County Under-19s gave themselves a head start in the UEFA Youth League second-round with a 2-1 victory over IA Akranes in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Wednesday evening.
The young Rams battled the cold temperatures, playing on a heated astroturf pitch in the Icelandic capital, in the first-leg meeting with Akranes.
Festy Ebosele opened the scoring for Justin Walker’s side, lashing in from Louie Sibley’s cross midway through the opening half. Sibley was the provider again just ahead of half-time when he played through to Jack Stretton to chip over the goalkeeper.
IA pulled one back midway through the second-half when Hrafn Helgason tapped in from a cross.
The two sides will meet again on 27th November at Pride Park Stadium to decide who moves on to the knock out stage of the competition.
The Rams knew they had a tough job on their hands against the Icelandic team who booked their spot in the second round after a 16-1 aggregate victory in the first round. A bright start was what they needed - and it is what they delivered.
Archie Brown showed off his blistering pace down the right in the fifth minute before trying his luck from a tight angle in the box, but dragged his low effort just wide of the far post.
Brilliant build-up play from a throw-in saw Derby come close again. Full-back Kornell McDonald weaved his way across the edge of the box before finding Archie Brown to lay off the Jordan Brown for the cross from the right. Sibley was there in front of goal, but headed just wide.
The opening goal came in the 16th minute and again it followed great teamwork from a throw-in. Liam Thompson received the ball in the middle of the park and did well to shrug off his man and find Jordan Brown behind him. The defender sent down a brilliant long ball to Sibley, and his cross was lashed in by Ebosele.
Akranes hadn’t worked a chance on goal up until the 30-minute mark as the Rams worked relentlessly on and off the ball. Bradley Foster-Theniger was called into action to make a comfortable save from a low effort from range.
With just over six minutes left to play in the half, the Rams doubled their lead. Another long-ball from Jordan Brown found Stretton and Sibley up front for a quick one-two for Stretton to chip over the Akranes stopper and into the net.
The home side started the second half much livelier and threatened the Derby goal within minutes. Foster-Theniger punched away initial danger into the path of Marteinn Theodorsson who scuffed his shot high for Callum Minkley to head to safety.
The Rams continued to look for a way to extend their lead. Ebosele had his eye on the goal again ten minutes after the restart, this time bending a low effort towards the bottom corner.
Akranes pulled one back with just less than 20 minutes left to play when Laxdal Unnarsson crossed in from the left after the home side won the ball back in the Derby half. Helgason was at the back post to tap in.
Stretton came so close to restoring the two-goal advantage in the final minute after doing brilliantly to win the ball back in Akranes’ half before bounding forward and rattling his effort off the post.
IA Akranes: Kristjansson; Gislason, Mehic, Wasilewski, Helgason; Unnarsson, Palsson, Eriksson (Sigurdsson, 87), Theodorsson (Gylfason, 80); Borstiensson (C), Wohler (Ingason, 45)
Unused Subs: Steinarsson, Baldursson, Gudjonsson, Adalgeirsson
Derby County: Foster-Theniger; McDonald, Minkley (C), Cashin, J. Brown; Whittaker, Thompson, Sibley; Ebosele, Stretton, A. Brown
Unused Subs: Halwax, Charles, Aghatise