Arsenal u-18s reached the Premier Academy League play-off Final after beating Manchester City by the same scoreline as they did in the FA Youth Cup semi-final first leg.
The young Gunners had exited the competition at this stage in the previous two seasons, but took an early lead through Cedric Evina. City responded with Abdisalam Ibrahim levelling proceedings, but Rhys Murphy struck the winner 14 minutes from time on his return from injury.
Steve Bould named his Youth Cup side with two exceptions; Wojciech Szczesny replaced James Shea in goal, whilst Evina filled in for Jack Wilshere, who is away with England U17s in Germany.
subs: Shea, Deacon, Henderson, Murphy, Boateng.
City were without their prolific Liberian striker Nimely because of injury and his absence proved to be a vital one as the Gunners started brightly, with Evina’s low cross causing panic in the City ranks.
However, the hosts responded at a subdued City of Manchester Stadium, with Szczesny called into action for the first time when Robbie Mak fired a shot on goal.
But it was Arsenal who took the lead on 14 minutes when City ‘keeper Joe Clegg could only parry Gilles Sunu’s cross from the right. It fell to Cedric Evina who gratefully dispatched it into the net for his first goal since September 2007.
The Gunners had Szczesny to thank for a succession of superb saves which kept out Elabdellaoui and Kieran Trippier. Perhaps his best stop came soon after when he made a stunning stop from Ball.
However, despite his heroics, the Pole was unable to prevent City’s equaliser, with Ibrahim nodding home from Chris Chantler’s free-kick.
Arsenal recieved an injury blow at half-time when Tom Cruise suffered a foot injury. He was replaced by Conor Henderson, with Evina switching to left-back.
Szczesny made two more invaluble saves; first from Ball and then Chantler and was looking every inch the perfect ‘keeper.
That was until a bizzare error of judgement saw him almost caught out after a weak punch found its way to the alert Ball, who attempted to lob the pole from distance. However, Luke Ayling came to the rescue and Arsenal survived the terrifying scare.
A superb challenge by Ayling ensured that the Gunners kept things tight at the back, but going forward they still needed another goal to avoid extra time.
They got it through the prolific Rhys Murphy, who was returning from the latest in a catalogue of injuries. This time Evina turned provider and Murphy’s instinct saw him finish with aplomb and prove that class is permanent, no matter the circumstances.
A couple of late substitutes from City failed to alter proceedings and the Gunners prevailed from a tricky task, despite only having three shots on target all game.
Sunderland or Spurs await in the Final, whilst there is still business at hand in the FA Youth Cup in the form of Liverpool.
The double is still on.