A brave and wholehearted young Derby County put in an impressive display under the watchful eye of Nigel Pearson as they took a vastly experienced Vitória Setubal right to the wire in a 1-0 defeat.
Costinha scored the only goal of the contest in the first half, but that aside, the Rams defied logic and matched their Primeira Liga opponents over large periods of the game and only the woodwork denied them an equaliser as Callum Guy’s strike from range crashed off the crossbar.
Deployed in a new 5-3-2 formation, Derby started brightly in the Algarve and were more than match with their experienced opponents.
With their first real opening of the game, though, Vitória, the Portuguese top flight side, were in front as a Nuno Pinto’s precise deep ball,following a prolonged passage of possession, caught the Rams’ backline and Mitchell off guard and was headed in at close range by Costinha after 13 minutes.
Normal service resumed as the Rams continued to, impressively, hold their own for another 10 minute spell in the south of Portugal, remaining disciplined in their shape and pressing to restrict their opponents space in key areas of the pitch.
The Portugal based side still created the better openings. On 25 minutes, from a Derby corner, Vitória broke at pace down the right side with only a sliding intervention from Micah Edwards, the second-year scholar, denying the Portuguese side a shot on goal.
Soon after, however, Mitchell denied Nuno Santos, the Benfica loanee, twice in quick succession – the first an instinctive parry to turn away the winger’s powerful header.
With five minutes remaining, Fuseine Rashid dug Mitchell out of a hole with a clearance off the line after the ‘keeper had fumbled a right wing cross as the contest petered out into half time.
Showing no changes, Derby returned to the fore on the front foot and were much the better side until the final whistle, winning a succession of corners, before registering their first shot on goal as Calum Macdonald, the defender, bent an effort round the far post.
Under the watchful eye of Pearson, the Derby Manager, his staff and first team players like Bradley Johnson, Darren Bent, Tom Ince and Johnny Russell, the Rams were denied an equaliser by the woodwork after Guy struck a fierce drive from range that had the beating of the goalkeeper.
With the meeting becoming increasingly stretched, Andre Claro, tamely, shot straight at Mitchell with time, whilst Joao Amaral’s low drive met the same fate with 18 minutes remaining.
To emphasise how young this Derby side is, Darren Wassall threw Jordan Mills, a first-year scholar who only completed his GCSE’s three weeks ago, into the action and only a strong last-gasp tackle denied him a clean shot on goal.
Despite the scoreline this was a wholehearted brave effort from Derby’s youngsters, who arguably shaded the second period of a tight game at the Estádio Algarve – one that everyone connected with the club can be incredibly proud of.
Following the final whistle, a round of penalties were conducted as part of the tournament and Alex Babos, Macdonald and Emil Riis Jakobsen all converted as the spot kick battle finished 3-3 to bring the curtain on game two of the mini tournament.
Vitória: Varela, Cardoso, Arnold, Bonilha, Santos, Costinha, Fernandes, Meyong, Gorupec, Pinto, Pedrosa
Substitutes: Raeder. Trigueira, Ferreira, Duarte, Venancio, Pacheco, Hassan, Santana, Claro, Costa, Amaral, Tissone, Alexandre, Valdu, Ruca, Bernando, Sousa
Derby County: Mitchell, Bogle (Goode, 76), Macdonald, Stabana, Rashid (Mills, 83), Bateman, Edwards (Cresswell, 76), Guy, Jakobsen, Babos, Vernam
Substitutes: Roos, Carter-Thompson, Bird, Hitchman, Ayo, Magno, Mbuti, Davidson-Miller, Wise, Davie, Haywood, KnightTweets by @ dcfcofficial