A strike from Villa striker Nathan Delfouneso just after half-time was enough to give Villa a 1-0 victory at Villa Park and end Arsenal’s ambitions of winning the Premier Academy League trophy.
Arsenal were dealt a blow before the game had even started after an injury to centre-back Gavin Hoyte. With Hoyte’s absence, Bould opted to hand a start to Rui Fonte alongside Rhys Murphy up front.
The starting line-up looked like this.
subs: Shea, Evina, Henderson, Barazite.
Arsenal started the game brightly and an Emmanuel Frimpong free-kick forced the Villa ‘keeper into a smart save six minutes in.
The Gunners continued to pile on the pressure in the early stages of the game. First, Rui Fonte made an embarking run on goal but was denied by a well-timed challenge from Villa’s Barry Bannan.
Villa then were denied a penalty after Jay Thomas commited a foul in the box, but the referee waved play on.
Steve Bould’s side had further chances, but failed to take advantage of them. Rhys Murphy should have done better when he met Craig Eastmond’s whipped cross from the right, but instead headed wide. It looked as if it was going to be that kind of day for Arsenal.
The home side were beginning to grow into the game and the tricky Barry Bannan was causing the Arsenal defence all sorts of problems, especially from set-pieces. First, he hit a left-footed effort across goal, but Szczesny was equal to it.
Collins hit a shot wide, before Szczesny showed his class by coming off his line to deny Nathan Delfouneso. It was an excellent save from Wojciech and it is what we have come to expect from the Polish stopper this season.
Bannan had another effort from a free-kick just before the interval, but it was cleared away.
It was a tight opening half, but the two sides went into the break still deadlocked at 0-0.
Half time- Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 0
Villa burst out of the traps in the second half, and after a decent cross from Albrington, poor marking from the Arsenal defence enabled Nathan Delfouneso to control the ball and fire in a low shot past Wojciech Szczesny. It was a nightmare start to the second period for the young gunners and Steve Bould was especially disappointed with his side’s defending leading up to the goal.
Not disheartened by conceding the opener, Arsenal looked for an immediate response. First, James Dunne hit a powerful effort straight at the Villa ‘keeper, then man of the moment Jack Wilshere hit a smart effort on goal which forced a fingertip save out of Villa goalie Parish.
Villa were desperate to double their advantage but Harry Forester failed to make anything of Bannan’s ball in.
Arsenal introduced Nacer Barazite for Sanchez Watt on 58 minutes, looking to change the game.
However, it was the hosts who continued to impress and if it wasn’t for good defending from Luke Ayling to stop Bannan’s cross, the Gunners could have been two goals down.
Collins was getting a lot of opportunities to double the lead and had two good opportunities to make it 2-0. However, on both occasions he shot low and hard at Szczesny.
Moments later, Collins hit a better effort just wide of the far post and Delfouneso came close once more, but Szczesny was equal to it once again.
The tall Pole was having an excellent game between the sticks, but Delfouneso’s strike just after half-time was still the difference between the two sides.
Baker had a further chance for Villa, who introduced Weimann in place of Forester with six minutes remaining in an attempt to run down the clock.
Time was running out for the Gunners. Steve Bould then brought on Cedric Evina for Jack Wilshere, but the change had little effect on proceedings.
The final whistle blew, and with it went Arsenal’s hopes of winning the Academy League. If they had won today, then the Gunners would have faced either Man.City or Sunderland in the final at Emirates Stadium. However, they went out at the semi-final stage for the second season in succession.
Villa had played the better football for the majority of the match and were deserved winners in the end.
Full time- Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 0
MAN OF THE MATCH- Wojciech Szczesny
Some fantastic saves kept Arsenal in it at times- he has been a revelation this season.