Manchester City overcame an early scare to sweep past League One Wycombe Wanderers 6-1 and get their bid for a fifth consecutive Carabao Cup off and running in a game where the deck was always stacked heavily in their favour.
Just try telling that to Finley Burns.
The 18-year-old centre-back lined up alongside EDS colleagues CJ Egan-Riley, Luke Mbete and Josh Wilson-Esbrand in an all-teenage back four.
Each of the quartet were senior debutants, along with 17-year-old midfielder Romeo Lavia, who was charged with screening the space in front of them and launching attacks for the more A-list City front five.
Spearheading Wycombe’s attack was a man at the other end of the experience spectrum.
It’s a cliche to say that facing a striker like Adebayo Akinfenwa on your first steps in senior football will stand you in good stead. But for what exactly?
What other footballer is remotely like the veteran centre-forward? It’s essentially like lining up against a figure out of folklore.
Riley, Burns, Mbete and Wilson-Esbrand know their roles, having played together as a unit for the under-23s, and Burns slotted in as the right-sided centre-back.
Wycombe’s commendable attacking approach saw them play with two up front, meaning goalscorer Brandon Hanlan was predominantly Mbete’s problem. For Burns, it was an appointment with “The Beast”.
Akinfenwa’s Wikipedia page is one of the more entertaining in the sport, featuring details you don’t encounter for any old footballer. His weight is listed as 100 kilograms, which somehow feels conservative.
Apparently he can bench press 180kg, which means he could probably have lifted Burns and Mbete above his head at the same time if the mood had taken him. It would have been a hell of a way to get booked.
In the moments after kick-off, Burns had time to ponder these vital statistics or anything else that took his fancy as the opposition’s centre-forward rumbled methodically towards him. Bench pressing might be Adebayo’s game; pressing, not so much.
By half-time, Burns had elegantly completed all 20 of his passes, showing some of the quality that persuaded City to pay £175,000 to Southend United for his services when he was just 13.
A report at the time in The Independent cheekily pointed out this was the same age Lionel Messi was when he joined Barcelona. Burns could not have had a more contrasting challenge on his hands and his aerial duels numbers read two contested, zero won by the midway point.
Unsurprisingly, Akinfenwa had mastery here and also gave away a statement of a foul in the 18th minute, absolutely flattening Burns in the City box.
But that and the jolt of Wycombe going ahead shortly afterwards did not deter the teenager from his share of the dirty work. Burns made seven clearances – five more than any other City player – and his seven instances of gaining possession was only bettered by Egan-Riley (eight).
Early in the second period, Akinfenwa received the ball with his back to goal in prime position. He tried to turn and navigate Burns but lost his footing as his marker averted the danger.
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When the 39-year-old cult hero departed to warm applause after the hour from all four sides of the ground, Burns could reflect on a colossal job well done.
“It would be better if every week they could play against Wycombe. If every weekend they could play against this legendary striker, that would be the best development for these players,” a beaming Pep Guardiola said afterwards. Maybe Burns agrees after such a comprehensive victory.
A Phil Foden-inspired City cranked through the gears from that point. Riyad Mahrez – his first having been brilliantly set up by Wilson-Esbrand – complete a brace, James McAtee became debutant number six and Cole Palmer brought the house down with a sensational first senior goal.
But Burns also had a night to cherish and earned a story to tell – the David to Akinfenwa’s Goliath as City slingshotted their way into the next round.
Which City youngster impressed you most against Wycombe? Follow our City Is Ours editor Dom Farrell on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.