Crystal Palace’s U21 side resurrected their EFL Trophy campaign on Tuesday night against a dilapidated AFC Wimbledon side that consisted of academy prospects and players who didn’t feature against Wigan last Saturday.
The Eagles were blown away in their last Group J fixture, losing 3-0 to League Two Sutton United.
But against Mark Robinson’s Dons, Palace controlled the game and looked the dominant force throughout.
It was one of Palace’s rising academy stars who caught the attention. England U20 international Jesurun Rak-Sakyi showed why Patrick Vieira has already handed him his first-team debut, playing a role in both goal contributions.
Despite having a somewhat subdued first half, the 19-year-old flourished and took control of the game in the second 45.
In the 57th minute, David Omilabu received the ball inside the area and passed along the face of goal for the onrushing Rak-Sakyi.
He had a Wimbledon player impeding him, but Rak-Sakyi reacted quickest of the two to slide home the opener and score his seventh goal in as many games for the academy.
The winger also gave first-team defenders Darius Charles and Dan Csoka a problematic evening, squaring up against the pair and using his nimble feet and turn of pace to draw them in before exploding past.
Rak-Sakyi turned provider for Rob Street in the 83rd minute to kill off the game and earn the South Londoners their inaugural victory in the EFL Trophy.
After receiving the ball 25 yards from goal, Rak-Sakyi took the Wimbledon defence out of the game with an inch-perfect pass to play through Street and finish the game.
It was a Man-of-the-Match performance from Rak Sakyi – he contributed to the two goals, two key passes, five shots and winning three tackles during the 90 minutes.
Palace’s defence also produced a professional performance, keeping out the attacking trio of Ethan Chislett, Dapo Mebude and Quaine Bartley.
Jay Rich-Baghuelou and Jake O’Brien both did well against the physical Quaine Bartley, and Sean Robertson and Tayo Adaramola advanced to join in on the attack at any opportunity.
As the evening progressed, Palace’s confidence grew. Paddy McCarthy’s side were playing free-flowing football as the game entered its final stages, with their youthful exuberance proving too much for Wimbledon to handle.
If the young Eagles had been more clinical with their efforts – having 12 shots at Zaki Oualah’s goal – they could have ended the evening above Wimbledon in Group J and on a positive goal difference.