NextGen Series blog- Thrills and spills as groups take shape

By Daily Mail
Last updated : 03 October 2011

In his latest blog, tournament co-founder Mark Warburton (right) gives Sportsmail an update...

?The group stage of the inaugural NextGen series is well and truly under way with more than a few unexpected storylines taking shape across the tournament. Things are getting tight at the top, and at the bottom, with everyone scrabbling for a place in the finals.

Last Tuesday saw Spurs travel to Eindhoven for their keenly awaited fixture with PSV. The Dutch club have suffered two close defeats and were keen to get their first points on the board. However Tottenham, whohave secured a home win and an away draw so far, had other ideas with afirst victory on foreign soil their target.

An exciting game saw Spurs dominate the first half, and they probablyshould have had more reward for their efforts than the solitary goal from Ivorian striker Souleymane Coulibaly by the half way mark.

Hot Spurs: Tottenham beat PSV with the help of Ivorian Souleymane Coulibaly

PSV returned after the break hungry and determined, and they dominated play with Raghi equalising midway through the second half.

The visitors, however, showed their quality and resilience with youngJack Munns grabbing the winner in the dying minutes to take them to thetop of Group Four with seven points.

Midweek saw three further matches with Inter Milan hosting FC Basel, Aston Villa playing Fenerbahce and Rosenborg welcoming the undefeated Ajax to their home stadium in Trondheim.

Inter have bounced back well from their heavy opening defeat at Spursto clinch the points against PSV, but Basel, who had nabbed a point offTottenham and won against PSV, presented them with a new challenge.

The game was a close fought encounter, with Inter securing the pointswith a first-half goal from Slovakian Jakub Vojtus. And they held on despite squandering a late second-half penalty, the Italian giants movedonto six points, two clear of Basel.

Meanwhile Villa Park was the magnificent setting for the match with Fenerbahce. The crowd and players enjoyed a marvellous pitch and gloriously warm evening for Aston Villa's first home fixture of their campaign.

Gary Gardener, fresh from first-team duty, was the stand-out performance in a fabulous team display, helping Villa run out comfortable 4-0 winners against the Turkish champions.

Watchful eye: The Liverpool management staff where at Anfield to watch the youth team play Molde

In contrast, a rain lashed Trondheim played host to Rosenborg's NextGen bow against an Ajax side who had already posted back-to-back wins.

Another strong performance from the Dutch masters saw them extend that run against a spirited Norwegian side 2-1, thanks to a brace from captain Davy Klaassen.

Later in the week the focus switched to Anfield and Barcelona. Liverpool's home ground looked magnificent with the stadium bathed in early evening sun and an immaculate playing surface.

With Kenny Dalglish looking on the young Reds dominated Molde in the early stages, waiting until Adam Morgan's introduction at half-time before their superiority was rewarded.

Michael Ngoo's pass put the striker through one-on-one with keeper Silvert Beinset and he finished calmly after 67 minutes. It wasn't untilthe final minute when he added his second, a 20-yard lob, before Toni Silva stabbed home the third in stoppage time.

Liverpool now move on to seven points after five fixtures but know they face a crucial final away game in Portugal against the unbeaten andhugely impressive Sporting Lisbon.

Wolfsburg sit three back after four matches and similarly have a final encounter against the Portuguese, but significantly play them at home. There's no doubt, this group will go down to the wire.

Barcelona maintained their 100 per cent record in Group 1 as they puton a classy team display at the Mini Estadi to defeat Olympique Marseille 4-1.

The arena, sitting next door to the famous Camp Nou, is the home of the Barca 'B' Reserve team and it proved to be an outstanding venue for the showpiece fixture.

Only three minutes had gone when Ernesto Cornejo opened the scoring for the hosts before the outstanding Jean-Marie Dongou stole the show bynetting a hat-trick.

The result extends the Catalan side's lead at the top to six points ahead of the French club, with Celtic and Manchester City yet to win a point in the group.

On Wednesday the beaten French face Manchester City at the Stadium Marcel Cerdan, keen to put the Catalan catastrophe be behind them and against a pointless City.

October sees a further seven games and sixteen more in November when aclearer picture emerges about which sides likely to progress through tothe first NextGen Series Finals. But right now, it's all to play for.

HOW THE GROUPS LINE UP...GROUP ONEFC BarcelonaCeltic MarseilleManchester City GROUP TWOLiverpool FC?? Sporting LisbonWolfsburg? Molde? GROUP THREEAjax? RosenborgAston VillaFenerbahce???????????????????? GROUP FOURInter MilanFC BaselTottenhamPSV For more information about the new NextGen Series visit: www.nextgenseries.com or follow the tournament on Twitter at: www.twitter/nextgenseries

?Morgan double buries Molde as Liverpool boost chances of progression in NextGen SeriesTurkish delight for Aston Villa after they crush Fenerbahce for first NextGen Series winLate Munns winner sinks PSV as unbeaten Tottenham shine again in NextGen SeriesNextGen Series blog: City start their campaign against the mighty Barcelona

Source: Daily Mail

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