Despite a spirited second half display, a young Derby County Under-23 side were beaten by Manchester City at Pride Park Stadium on Friday night.
Lukas Nmecha scored a hat-trick with Luke Bolton grabbing the other goal in Premier League 2 - Division 1.
Darren Wassall's side fought back in the second half and they were unlucky not to get themselves on the scoresheet, with Louie Sibley striking the bar.
City set up with the same 4-3-3 formation that has been utilised by the first team to devastating effect this season, and they controlled possession in the same manner as Pep Guardiola’s seniors.
The opening goal came from a ball in behind, and once Bolton was on to it, he sidefooted brilliantly into the far corner.
The left-winger was causing all sorts of problems and City thought they had a second when he beat his man before finding Nmecha, who found the net but the referee gave handball.
Jonathan Mitchell returned from injury to start in goal but his night came to a premature end midway through the first half when he took a nasty blow to the face, with Josh Barnes coming on in his place.
Derby’s best chance of the first half came from a superbly-flighted cross from Sven Karic, but Max Hunt couldn’t connect at the back post.
The City lead was doubled by Nmecha after he was played clean through, and it was three when the striker neatly backheeled past Barnes in added time at the end of the first half.
Nmecha completed his hat-trick 10 minutes after the break, tapping home at the second attempt after a ball into the box.
The Young Rams fought hard in the second half and Cameron Cresswell twice had a sight of goal but he couldn’t make a decisive connection.
City right-back Demeaco Duhaney bent a long-range free-kick just wide on the hour mark, but Derby almost pulled one back moments later, but Hunt’s powerful header was blocked.
Cresswell had his best chance of the night when he was played through by Kyron Stabana, but Aro Muric kept it out with his foot before the rebound was comfortably saved.
Sibley came off the bench and looked extremely bright, first having a shot saved before Alex Cover's rebound was cleared off the line, and he had a deflected effort strike the bar with three minutes left.
Derby County: Mitchell (Barnes, 24’); Cover, Wassall, Hunt, Karic; Stabana, Bird; Wilson (Sibley, 67’), Knight, Mitchell-Lawson (Taylor, 76'); Cresswell.
Substitutes not used: Buchanan, Stretton.
Manchester City: Muric; Duhaney, Adarabioyo, Latibeaudiere, Wilson; Dele-Bashiru (Dilrosun, HT), Smith (Wood, 57’), F. Nmecha; Poveda, L. Mnecha, Bolton (Motondo, 75').
Substitutes not used: Sokol, Francis.
The first City goal was a demonstration of the quality that a young Derby side were up against.
Time and time again, Bolton displayed searing pace and he burst in behind before bending a terrific shot past Mitchell to give his side the early advantage.
In the absence of the in-form Lewis Walker, Cresswell led the line and for much of the night it was a thankless task as City dominated the ball.
He battled hard, pressing when the opportunity presented itself and he competed physically with the visitors’ backline, and he was unfortunate not to find the net when he found space in the second half.
The Under-23s aren’t in action again until Saturday 31st March, when they take on Chelsea at St George’s Park.
Derby also have a Premier League Cup last-16 tie to look forward to, where they will face either Ipswich Town or Sheffield United away from home. Full details of this fixture will be released in due course.