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Report: Youthful Albion bow out of the Carabao Cup

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A young Albion side bravely bowed out of the Carabao Cup at the third round stage after a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa at the Amex.

By James Hilsum • 25 September 2019

By Paul Hazlewood
Taylor Richards in action against Aston Villa.
  • Ten Albion players make their first-team debuts
  • Jota, Conor Hourihane and Jack Grealish on target for Villa
  • Haydon Roberts marks his first senior appearance with a goal
  • The Seagulls return to Premier League action away at Chelsea on Saturday

First-half goals from Jota and Conor Hourihane gave Villa a comfortable lead at the break, and despite a Haydon Roberts headed goal, on his senior debut, Jack Grealish found the back of the net late on to round off the scoring against Albion's young side, which included seven senior debutants in the starting line-up.

The bench also had a very youthful look with Jason Steele the only one of seven substitutes to have featured for the first team — Ryan Longman, Romaric Yapi and Jack Spong came on to make their senior bows.

Aaron Connolly lines up a free kick.

The youthful statistics created a buzz in the press box, with the Seagulls fielding a line-up with an average age of 21.5 years that included six teenagers.

Graham Potter chose to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation for Villa’s visit, with a back four of Archie Davies, Shane Duffy, Roberts and Gaetan Bong behind a holding two of Teddy Jenks and Tudor Baluta, and a trio of Peter Gwargis, Taylor Richards and Alex Cochrane in behind Aaron Connolly.

Connolly was involved in the thick of the action straight away after he was brought down on the edge of the box, but the Irishman’s subsequent set piece was blocked by the Villa wall. 

By Paul Hazlewood
Tudor Baluta looks for options from midfield.

The visitors had a decidedly more experienced line-up and Hourihane was the first Villa player to test the water with a long-range effort that rose just over the crossbar.

But it was Albion who made the livelier start, as Connolly was allowed to race forward on goal and saw his angled strike rise over the crossbar.

Despite that positive opening, the visitors took the lead courtesy of Jota, who found the back of the net with a half volley from inside the box with 21 minutes played. 

By Bennett Dean
Teddy Jenks puts John McGinn under pressure.

That lead was doubled with 33 minutes on the clock after Keinan Davis found Hourihane with a low cross, and the latter fired in from close range.

There were signs of encouragement though and Connolly came within inches of halving the deficit shortly before the break after his shot cannoned off the post following a perfectly-weighted through-ball from Richards.

Button was called into action shortly after the re-start to push Trezeguet’s fierce effort over the crossbar, before a very special moment for Roberts on the hour mark. 

By Paul Hazlewood
Haydon Roberts celebrates scoring on his debut.

The England under-17 international marked his senior debut with a goal after glancing in a Gwargis corner to give Potter’s youngsters a foothold in the tie.

Clearly buoyed by the goal, substitute Longman was next to try and get in on the act when he cut in off the left flank and forced Jed Steer into a low save down to his left.

Potter was forced into a second change with just under 20 minutes remaining after Duffy limped off the pitch, and Yapi became the ninth player to make his senior debut on the night. One debutant then replaced another, as Spong took to the field in place of Jenks to become the tenth debutant at the Amex.

Spong and the other Albion youngsters were soon delivered another lesson in the ruthless nature of senior football, when Grealish came off the bench to score a third from inside the box with 12 minutes remaining, and any hopes of finding an equaliser were effectively extinguished.

The Carabao Cup journey may have come to an end, but Potter would have been encouraged by the performance of his youthful side, as attention returns back to the Premier League with a match away at Chelsea on Saturday.

ALBION: Button; Bong, Duffy (Yapi 72), Roberts; Davies, Jenks (Spong 72), Baluta, Cochrane; Gwargis, Richards, Connolly (Longman 58).

SUBS NOT USED: Steele (GK), O’Hora, J. Davies, Radulovic.

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