A young MK Dons XI recorded an impressive 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur XI in their final pre-season friendly ahead of the Sky Bet League 1 season.
16-year-old Giorgio Rasulo netted the only goal of the game in the 34th minute with a fine strike at the second time of asking. The Dons side, made up largely of fringe and youth team players, put in a dominant first half performance against the Premier League development side.
The hosts could have enjoyed a more comfortable scoreline had Will Summerfield, Ben Reeves and Kelvin Osei-Addo finished chances which fell to them. In the latter stages of the match, when the Dons had three players over the age of 18 on the pitch, Spurs came into their own and threatened for an equaliser, but Ian McLoughlin and, in injury time, Charlie Burns kept the Dons’ lead intact.
The Dons started lively against a strong and young Tottenham XI which included former Dons loanees Andros Townsend and Jake Livermore. Within the opening few minutes goalkeeper Jonathan Miles was called into action at his near post when Ben Reeves saw his corner fall back at his feet before drilling an effort at the Spurs ‘keeper.
Reeves was back in the thick of the action moments later when he found trialist Zavon Hines at the back post with a well-delivered free-kick but Miles was able to make a comfortable save.
It took the visitors eight minutes to register their first attempt on target when Kevin Stewart out-jumped his marker in the box but Ian McLoughlin gathered on his line.
The young Dons side were able to play with freedom and with six of the starting line-up either coming through or currently in the Academy set-up they were well rehearsed into the style of the first team.
One moment of magic came from second-year scholar Brendan Galloway when the left-back showed incredible skill on the left flank as he lifted the ball over Ryan Fredricks before playing the ball out wide. A defensive mistake opened up space for Patrick Bamford but the Chelsea loanee skewed his shot wide.
Tottenham had been on the back foot for large periods of the first half, but still showed glimpses of their talent as Cameron Lancaster cut through the Dons defence but his snatched attempt blazed well over the bar.
The Dons were a delight to watch as they pounced on every mistake Spurs made and quickly turned up the heat in the final third. There was some good understanding between the players as Giorgio Rasulo played a smart diagonal ball to George Baldock who in turn whipped in a cross for Galloway at the back post, but it was expertly cleared.
As the half-hour mark approached the Dons should have taken the lead when Hines showed quick feet down the left of midfield and cut a delicious squared ball at the feet of Will Summerfield. The youngster took his shot at the first time of asking yet lifted the ball into the stands from only a matter of yards out.
From the moment Spurs seemed to wake up and put pressure on the Dons for the first real time in the match. McLoughlin was alert to the danger though as he bravely saved at the feet of Cristian Ceballos.
Ceballos was given a second chance moments later when a mix-up at the back presented the forward with another opportunity to test McLoughlin but the Dons goalie won the battle once more.
At the other end the Dons took a deserved lead in the 34th minute when Rasulo latched on to a ball from Bamford and, after seeing his initial shot blocked by the defender, showed some good feet to shuffle into space and fire beyond Miles.
It was an excellent finish from the 16-year-old who had a lot of work to do following his first attempt, and it gave the Dons the boost they needed with Bamford going close soon after with a free-kick which produced a diving stop from Miles.
The half-time interval would have provided a welcome break for Tottenham and they used it to introduce substitute goalkeeper Jordan Archer as well as Shaquile Coulthirst who added a physical presence up front for Spurs.
The forward showed power and pace as he eased past Tom Flanagan and looked as though he was set to test McLoughlin on a one-on-one, that was until Galloway came from nowhere to make a superb sliding challenge and rob the ball from his feet.
Just over 10 minutes into the second half the Dons made a triple substitution with Kyran Wiltshire Kelvin Osei-Addo and Jon Osae all introduced in place of Alli, Galloway and Bamford.
Spurs’ brightest moments had come since Coulthirst had been on the pitch as the forward’s movement caused the Dons’ defence an array of problems, especially when Ceballos’ through ball cut them open. McLoughin was alert and quickly left his line which did enough to distract the Spurs man as he shot woefully wide.
Having made a wave of substitutions it took the Dons some time to find their rhythm again, but when they did Rasulo stormed through midfield to create an opening of Jon Otsemobor, who had powered through midfield. The defender fizzed the ball into the path of Osei-Addo but the second-year scholar fired straight at Archer.
It was a moment that caused panic in the Spurs defence and as they desperately tried to clear their ranks a handball presented Reeves with an opportunity to go for goal from a free-kick on the right. Archer was caught out by the midfielder’s sheer cheekiness, but Reevers was denied by a matter of inches as the ball skimmed the roof of the net.
With less 20 minutes to go Spurs also made a host of changes with Kenneth McEvoy, Ruben Lameiras and Giancarlo Gallifuoco all given a late run out. The game threatened to become disjointed by all the changes and with Flanagan and McLoughlin as the only recognised first team players on the pitch it was a chance for Spurs to dominate.
McEvoy had an immediate impact with some lively runs down the left and when Spurs had a three-man overlap it looked for all the world as though they would find their equaliser, but McEvoy saw his shot deflected away by his own team-mate Coulthirst.
Third-year scholar Burns was brought on to keep goal in the closing stages and showed great promise when he pulled off an excellent save to deny Coulthirst in injury time and hand the Dons the win.
MK Dons XI (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin (Martin 88); Baldock, Otsemobor (Weston 76), Flanagan (c), Galloway (Osae 58); Alli (Wiltshire 58), Reeves (Tingey 76); Summerfield, Rasulo, Hines (Grant 72); Bamford (Osei-Addo 59).
Goal: Rasulo 34
Tottenham Hotspur XI: Miles (Archer 46); Fredericks, Ward, Bentaleb, Livermore (Lameiras 73), Stewart (c), Townsend (McEvoy 73), Carroll (Gallifuoco 73), Lancaster (Coulthirst 46), Falque, Ceballos.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Dorset)