Brighton & Hove Albion 2 (Connolly 74 & 76) Wolves 0
Wolves under-23s started life in the top flight of development football with a narrow defeat to last season’s third-place side Brighton & Hove Albion in Crawley.
Aaron Connolly’s late double meant that Rob Edwards’ side would have a less than positive start to their Premier League 2 Division 1 campaign following their promotion as Division 2 champions last season.
Edwards handed debuts to two new faces in the Academy, with former PSG defender Raphael Nya and ex-Bayern Munich midfielder Meritan Shabani coming straight into the starting line-up, while under-18 regulars from 2018/19, Lewis Richards and Taylor Perry – the latter of whom has spent the pre-season with Nuno Espirito Santo’s senior squad – have also stepped up to the under-23s.
The first 45 minutes at Crawley’s People’s Pension Stadium was a tight affair, with both sides struggling to break down the compact and organised defences.
Wolves’ best chance of the first-half came via Benny Ashley-Seal. After withstanding pressure put on them by Brighton, Wolves broke quickly though Sadou Diallo who played in Ashley-Seal, but the forward could only send his low strike just wide of the post.
Brighton had their first real chance of the match 10 minutes into the second half when Taylor Richards aimed for goal, but Dion Sanderson – another of the under-23s who has spent pre-season with Nuno’s first-team – made an excellent block.
The visitors then had their best spell of the game, but Albion were indebted to keeper Tom McGill for keeping the Wolves at bay. The stopper made a superb save to deny Perry at close range, before Ed Francis struck the foot of the right post with a free-kick from the edge of the box.
But with 20 minutes of the game remaining, Brighton secured the three points. After Sanderson made another block to deny Haydon Roberts, the defender could do little to stop Connolly opening his account when he smashed a loose ball into the roof of the net.
Two minutes later Connolly netted his second, running onto a chipped through ball from substitute Jordan Davies before lifting it over the on-rushing Andreas Sondergaard and into the net, sealing the opening three points of the season for the home side.
The under-23s play their first Premier League 2 Division 1 home match on Sunday afternoon as Everton are the visitors to AFC Telford United’s New Bucks Head.
18/8 Everton (H)
23/8 Blackburn Rovers (A)
30/8 Leicester City (H)
14/9 Manchester City (A)
20/9 Arsenal (H)
Brighton: McGill, A Davies, O'Hora, Roberts, Cox, Sanders, Richards (J Davies 73), Dreyer (Longman 87), Alzate, Cochrane (Gwargis 46), Connolly.
Unused subs: Debois, Radulovic.
Wolves: Sondergaard, Buur, Sanderson, Nya, Richards, Kitolano, Francis, Diallo (Samuels 81), Perry (Campbell 75), Shabani (Tsun-Dai 87), Ashley-Seal.
Unused subs: Flavio, Thompson.
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