Matchday one certainly delivered, with youngsters making their debuts, a glut of goals and plenty of late drama. This week was no different. There were late comebacks, fancy finishes and debutants taking the stage for the first time.
Here’s a roundup of this week’s Group Stage action…
Rochdale 0-0 Manchester United U21*
Manchester United U21 win 5-4 on penalties
The United youngsters were big winners on matchday one, beating neighbours Salford City 6-0. There’s no doubt that they’ll have carried that confidence into matchday two as they faced Rochdale, however the League One side kept the lively youngsters at bay as it ended goalless. With penalties needed to separate the two sides, Harrison Hopper missed the crucial penalty in sudden death, as United sealed the victory to top Northern Group B on five points.
Tranmere Rovers 3-2 Liverpool U21
With both sides looking for their first win in the competition, this local derby didn't disappoint. Despite going ahead thanks to a wonderful free-kick from youngster Jake Cain, Liverpool U21 suffered defeat to Tranmere Rovers, who came from behind to secure victory. A James Vaughan double put the home side ahead and although Liverpool found an equaliser, Stefan Payne cooly converted from a corner as the game ended 3-2. The win puts Tranmere top of Northern Group D with just one game remaining.
Scunthorpe United 0-4 Manchester City U21
Manchester City U21 were without three players who masterminded their 3-0 win over Mansfield Town on matchday one due to their involvement with the first team, but it didn't stop other youngsters making their mark, as City produced a brilliant display to beat Scunthorpe United 4-0 and go top of Northern Group E. On the ball, they looked to break quickly and they were clinical in their approach. Two goals apiece from Ben Knight and Sam Edozie sealed an emphatic win, meaning the young Blues have now scored seven goals in two games, conceding none along the way so far.
Salford City 2-0 Morecambe
Graham Alexander’s Salford, who are going well in Sky Bet League Two, were looking to bounce back from a 6-0 defeat to Manchester United U21 on matchday one in the EFL Trophy. 17-year-old Hayden Evans made his Salford debut between the sticks, and the teenager went home happy having kept a clean sheet on his first appearance. Goals from James Wilson and Ash Hunter were enough to give the Ammies three points and lift them to third in Northern Group B, behind Rochdale and Manchester United U21.
"It’s something you always dream about especially as a goalkeeper on your debut – coming out, keeping a clean sheet – so like I said really happy and really happy I got the opportunity.
“Playing in the Academy last year really helped me a lot to make the jump up, as well as the 20s, and yeah it was really good to play with the first team and I really enjoyed it.” - Hayden Evans, Salford City.
Crewe Alexandra 1-0 Newcastle United U21
Substitute Harry Pickering scored the only goal of the game as Crewe Alexandra took a big step towards qualifying for the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy. Victory over Newcastle United knocked the Magpies out of the competition, with Crewe sitting top of Northern Group C. With just one game left to play, David Artell’s side - who won the competition in 2013 - look set to advance from the Group Stages.
Walsall 1-1 Chelsea U21*
Chelsea win 5-3 on penalties
With the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi having used this competition as a platform for success as a youngster, expectations are always high for Chelsea youngsters in the EFL Trophy. Wes McDonald put Walsall ahead less than ten minutes into the second half, but Chelsea worked hard for their equaliser, which came through captain Dynel Simeu with 20 minutes left on the clock. With no winner to be found for either side, the game went to penalties and it was Chelsea who came away with the bonus point following a 5-3 win in the shootout.
Colchester United 0-1 West Ham United U21
West Ham United U21 recorded their second win from the opening two EFL Trophy games to top Southern Group A. Following victory over Colchester United, they now stand on the verge of qualification for the first time since the 2017/18 season. Conor Coventry scored the only goal of the game with a stunning strike from range, to round off a perfect evening for the young Hammers.
"We had composure on the ball, dominated it and didn’t turn it over quickly. In a spell where the game could go either way, we really settled on the ball and dominated it.” - Dmitri Halajko, West Ham United U21 lead coach.
Charlton Athletic* 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion U21
Charlton win 4-1 on penalties
Finally, Albie Morgan scored his first goal for Charlton Athletic as the Addicks picked up a bonus point with a penalty shootout win over Brighton & Hove Albion U21 on Wednesday evening. Lee Bowyer’s men had to come from behind at The Valley after going in 1-0 down at the break, but recovered well to ultimately win 4-1 on spot-kicks in Southern Group G.