Leicester City’s huge secret was told to the world at the U-17 World Cup in Brazil, where imposing goalkeeper Chituru Odunze made several big saves in the United States’ quick exit from the group stage.
Odunze, who turned 17 last month, joined the Premier League outfit from the Vancouver Whitecaps last season, and is already getting some first team training time.
This is all good news for a USMNT program which has a long history of goalkeepers shining at the top levels in Europe, including Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, Tim Howard, and now Zach Steffen.
Odunze admits to being pleased at the tests provided by Jamie Vardy and the Leicester attackers, but says he’s learning more from the expertise on show from a trio of wise first team goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Ward, and Eldin Jakupovic.
Schmeichel is a Premier League winner, Jakupovic a former regular PL starter with Hull City, and Ward helped Huddersfield Town to promotion during a loan from Liverpool. From Oddschecker’s Kristan Heneage:
“They’re all really good role models at the club, and they sort of take you under their wing. They’ve taught me to calm down and be confident in my abilities,” Odunze said. “Of course, there are little pieces of technical information they give me while we’re training, but a lot of the lasting information I get from them is mental.”
The 17-year-old has a monstrous frame, so learning from Schmeichel and company at such a young age while getting tested by the Foxes’ electric attackers is a great combination. He is 2W-2L at the U18 Premier League level.
A pair of Premier League clubs are providing goalkeeper headlines on Friday, one more costly than the other.
Matthew Ryan, 25, has had an outstanding career at his young age, and cost Brighton and Hove Albion a club record for his services. Ryan comes from Valencia, and has a five-year deal which the BBC says is for an “undisclosed club record.”
Meanwhile, Hull City backstop Eldin Jakupovic is understood to be on the move to Leicester City, where he’ll back up Kasper Schmeichel. It’ll be a $3 million buy for Jakupovic, who was certainly not at fault for the Tigers relegation last season.
Mark Hughes saw his side go up 1-0 with a bullet, as Arnautovic held off the mark of Harry Maguire to dribble across the top of the box before unleashing a vicious bar-down strike past Eldin Jakupovic.
The Austrian almost had two when Xherdan Shaqiri chipped him in on goal, but Arnautovic’s side volley was hit with too much power and flew over the frame.
Saido Berahino thought he had a Stoke goal from a Ryan Shawcross pass, but the latter’s stop-start before playing the ball had Berahino offside.
Oumar Niasse was stopped from action by Lee Grant‘s presence on a should-have-been equalizer in the 22nd minute, a cross left wanting through the six. Grant then made a two-handed stop of Lazar Markovic in the 25th.
Stoke wasn’t moved by the moments of worry, and Arnautovic had yet another chance to score only to cut his shot wide of the frame from an acute angle.
Maguire found the equalizer just after the break, after Stoke came out of the break in dodgy fashion. Positioned at the back post, Maguire ran onto a loose ball and punched it behind Grant to make it 1-1.
Jakupovic slapped away a strong diving header from Jon Walters in the 60th minute, and Peter Crouch couldn’t get over the rebound to restore Stoke’s lead.
Crouch was the man to make it 2-1 after all, the giant veteran rising to head a terrific Walters cross beyond the reach of a flying Jakupovic.
Shaqiri would finish the scoring off a feed from Arnautovic, burying a goal of the year candidate from well beyond the 18. Laser.
James Wilson, one of two Manchester United academy products making their Premier League debut, scored in the 31st and 61st minutes, stealing his share of the headlines from two Red Devils stars who may have taken their final bows at the Theatre of Dreams dreams. Going on to defeat visiting Hull City 3-1, Manchester United moved within three points of England’s final Europa League spot. The club also saw two legends leave Old Trafford’s pitch for what may have been the final time.
Nemanja Vidic, out of contract at the end of the season. took the place of an injured Phil Jones early in the first half, and with 20 minutes left, interim manager Ryan Giggs handed in his own number. Vidic has already confirmed he will move to Italy’s Inter Milan next season, while may suspect Giggs will call en end to his 24-year career after the season.
If it is the end of Giggs’ playing days, it was only appropriate he left the field a winner, with an 18-year-old the manager handed his first cap repaying the interim boss’s faith. In the 31st minute, Wilson beat David Meyler and Nelson Figueroa to a ball knocked down by Marouane Fellaini, volleying home his first top-flight goal. Thirty minutes later, it was Martin cleaning up after Fellaini again, this time putting back the rebound of his teammate’s shot to put United up 2-0.
Two minutes later, Hull’s Matty Fryatt beat David de Gea to pull Steve Bruce’s team within one, the closest the visitors would come. With Robin Van Persie providing late insurance, the Red Devils claimed their second win in three games under Giggs, moving within three points of sixth place Tottenham Hotspur.
With a huge advantage in goal difference, United maintains hope of qualifying for Europe. A win on Sunday at Southampton combined with a Spurs loss against visiting Aston Villa would leave the Red Devils in sixth place, earning the club the Premier League’s last Europa League spot.
Manchester United controlled play from the opening kickoff, producing a chance for Wilson in the third minute. With Adnan Januzaj crossing to Fellaini, the home side was intent on taking advantage of the Belgian’s height, having put the midfielder in a similar position to that which he occupied at Everton. Though the move didn’t pay off in the opening minutes, a nearly identical attack just past the half-hour mark put United in front.
In the 31st minute, off a cross from Januzaj, Fellaini jumped over Curtis Davies to head back across the top of the six-yard box. Beating Meyler and Figueroa to the ball, Martin put a left-footed volley past Eldin Jakupovic for the game’s opening goal, giving United the one-goal lead they’d take into halftime.
Just past the hour mark, Martin struck again. Running onto a rebound after Fellaini was saved at close range, the England U-19 international doubled his club’s lead, giving the striker a dream debut to his Manchester United career.
Two minutes later, with their first shot of the game, Hull halved that led, with Matty Fyatt’s right-footed shot from outside the penalty area finding de Gea’s right corner. Despite that response, Hull would go on to be out-shot 18-2, with a 86th minute finish from Van Persie into the left of goal restoring Manchester United’s two-goal lead.
With the result, the Red Devils maintain a hope of playing European soccer next season, though the night will likely be remembered for other reasons. With their team’s win, the Old Trafford faithful are able to celebrate the departure of two of the club’s biggest names – player swho’ve contributed to so much of the club’s success in the Premier League era. And with an academy product’s debut double, fans were given reason to believe new stars are waiting to help their team back up the table.
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Büttner, Carrick, Fellaini, Kagawa, Januzaj, Lawrence, Wilson