Walsall 2 Crawley Town 3: Scintillating Reds secure first Carabao Cup win in five years

Filipe Morais netted Crawley Town's first goal. Picture courtesy of Getty Images
Filipe Morais netted Crawley Town's first goal. Picture courtesy of Getty Images

Crawley Town advanced to the second round of the Carabao Cup for the first time since 2014 after an exhilarating 3-2 win at Walsall this (Tuesday) evening.

Filipe Morais' strike on 21 minutes gave the Reds the lead at half-time before a breakneck second half ensued. Tom Dallison netted his first goal for the club just three minutes into the second period before Caolan Lavery's penalty immediately reduced the deficit.

But Ashley Nadesan, on his first start for the club since his transfer from Fleetwood Town in the summer, made it 3-1 to Crawley straight from the kick-off.

Lavery scored his second to make it 3-2 but the Reds held on to advance to round two of the 2019/20 Carabao Cup.

Head coach Gabriele Cioffi gave competitive debuts to keeper Michael Luyambula and forward Nadesan as the Italian made seven changes from Saturday's 2-0 win home over Salford City. Club captain Jimmy Smith returned to the first team squad but had to make do with a place on the bench.

The hosts enjoyed the majority of possession during the early stages of the game and forced a number of corners. The best chance came on 12 minutes when Walsall's Elijah Adebayo played in Josh Gordon but his shot was well blocked by Josh Doherty.

Crawley's first sight of goal came on 17 minutes. Nadesan did well to beat a Saddlers defender before driving towards the byline. The returning forward did well to cut the ball back to Morais but the Portuguese midfielder was unable to keep his attempt down.

Morais only needed four minutes to make amends as he fired the Reds into the lead after scintillating build up play. Ashley Nathaniel-George sped at the Walsall backline and played an inch perfect pass to Nadesan. Crawley's number ten expertly timed his run to get behind the Saddlers defence before squaring the ball across goal for Morais to tap home from three-yards.

Just after the half-hour mark and the Reds produced more good work going forward. Goalscorer Morais almost turned provider for Nadesan as the midfielder flashed a pass across the face of the goal which just evaded the onrushing striker.

Walsall managed to carve out a half chance on 37 minutes. Good work down the right from Cameron Norman saw the winger cross for Adebayo but his header was deflected out for a corner - which came to nothing.

Two minutes later Luyambula was called into action for the first time and the Birmingham City loanee produced a remarkable stop. Adebayo won the knock down from yet another Saddlers corner. Mat Sadler picked up the ball and let fly with a vicious drive, forcing Luyambula into a super save to tip the ball over.

Mere moments later Ollie Palmer did well to take the ball out of the night sky before unleashing a stinging first time volley that was well saved by Liam Roberts in the Walsall goal.

In first half stoppage time Panutche Camara had a great chance to double the lead. A cross from Palmer was cleared out only as far as the Bissau-Guinean, who was lurking on the edge of the box. Camara let fly with a cleanly struck shot but Roberts denied the midfielder with a marvellous stop.

The Reds began the second half with the same intensity that they finished the first. Just three minutes into the second period and Cioffi's men doubled their lead.

A whipped Nathaniel-George corned found Tom Dallison completely unmarked at the far post and the defender had the easiest of headers to make it 2-0 to Crawley.

But Walsall struck back almost instantly. Sadler was brought down in the box and Lavery dispatched the spot kick despite Luyambula getting a hand to it.

And the scoring hadn't finished as Nadesan bagged his debut goal in a breathless start to the second half. Straight from the kick-off the Reds raced up the other end as Doherty overlapped to play a brilliant ball in to Nadesan who tapped home to restore the two goal cushion.

Unbelievably Crawley had the ball in the back of the net for the fourth time on 61 minutes but Nathaniel-George was adjudged to be offside.

The Reds onslaught continued as Palmer did excellently to set up Nathaniel-George once more, but the flying winger bent his shot just wide of the Saddlers goal.

Walsall managed to get a foothold back in to the game on 71 minutes as Crawley were caught out by a quick Norman free-kick. The wide-man set Lavery free in the box and the Northern Irishman fired past Luyambula for his second goal of the evening.

With seven minutes of the game to go Reds supporters had their hearts in their mouths as the hosts struck the crossbar. After pinball in the area the ball fell to Norman but the winger's strike scraped the top of the bar and went over.

Referee Carl Boyeson added five minutes of stoppage time to a thoroughly entertaining first half and the drama was not over yet.

Luyambula was called on to make a dramatic save at the death to ensure Crawley advanced to the next round of the competition.

Crawley Town: Luyambula, Francomb, Tunnicliffe, Dallison, Doherty, Payne, Camara, Morais (Ferguson 69), Nadesan (Grego-Cox 59), Nathaniel-George (Allarakhia 81), Palmer. Unused: Morris, Smith, Sesay, Galach.

Attendance: 2,451 (94 away)

Referee: Carl Boyeson