U21 Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur 4 (Fryers, Dombaxe (pen)), Munns (2)) Arsenal 2 (Akpom (2))
Arsenal U21s are still looking for their first win in the Elite Group after losing 4-2 to arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the latter’s Enfield training complex this morning. Chuba Akpom put Arsenal ahead, and would add another in the second half to continue his fine run in front of goal, but, in between those two strikes, Tottenham found the net three times themselves, with midfielder Jack Munns proving particularly influential, adding another goal late on.
Coach Steve Gatting made three changes from the side that drew with Manchester United last time out, with Hector Bellerin, Kristoffer Olsson and Zak Ansah coming into the side in place of Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, Nico Yennaris and Thomas Eisfeld.
subs: Shea, Neita, Monteiro, Wynter, Rees (for Ansah, 74).
Tottenham included former Manchester United defender Zeki Fryers in their line-up, and the desire of both sides to impress resulted in a cagey opening few minutes in which little in the way of clear cut chances was created. That changed when Akpom was played through on goal, only to see his shot saved by the legs of the alert Jonathan Miles.
On the next occasion that he found himself in a similar position, however, Akpom made no mistake, slotting the ball past Miles with ease following good build-up play from Isaac Hayden and Serge Gnabry. The goal continued the 17-year-old’s prolific run of form in front of goal recently, with this goal his fifth strike since the turn of the year, bringing him into double figures for the campaign as a whole.
Arsenal were certainly in the ascendancy at this stage, and could have doubled their lead shortly afterwards when Gnabry did well to pick out Akpom again, with the striker rattling the crossbar on this occasion. Ansah was on hand to meet the re-bound, but shot straight at Miles, before shooting wide when well placed in a separate move just minutes later.
Lukasz Fabianksi, the only member of the first-team squad in action for the Gunners, then did well to save from Jack Munns, but the Tottenham player was offside anyway, before the same player went down in the penalty area following a challenge from Ignasi Miquel, but the referee waved play on. Munns was certainly making a nuisance of himself, with Fabianski having to rush off his line to gather the ball with the midfielder well placed.
Tottenham had evidently, over the past ten minutes or so, been re-asserting themselves on the game, and they drew level with 28 minutes on the clock when Fryers beat Fabianski with a well-placed effort. Things threatened to turn from bad to worse for Arsenal when Miquel again brought down Munns in the penalty area, and this time a penalty was awarded. Angolan striker Laste Dombaxe stepped up to take it and succeeded in sending Fabianski the wrong way to put Tottenham into the lead.
Tottenham continued to pile on the pressure even after taking the lead, with Munns testing Fabianski with another fierce effort, before former England youth midfielder Dean Parrett shot just wide from a free-kick.
Arsenal seemed determined to restore parity after the break and came close to creating several openings before Gnabry fired a shot at Miles in frustration. It was Tottenham who would get the next goal, however, with the in-form Munns on hand to turn home after Kenneth McEvoy’s cross was not properly dealt with.
McEvoy was becoming increasingly influential, and teed up Nathan Byrne who forced Fabianski into a good save, then Arsenal mustered something of a response with Conor Henderson’s stinging shot testing Miles. Akpom was refusing to give up the fight, however, and offered Arsenal a lifeline after battling past Giancarlo Gallifuoco and slotting the ball past Miles to make it 3-2.
It was, by now, an enthralling end-to-end contest, with Munns, Akpom’s principal rival for supremacy in this game, then heading wide. Arsenal now sensed that they were capable of producing a comeback which had seemed rather improbable just ten minutes earlier. Gnabry delivered a teasing cross into the penalty area, which just eluded Isaac Hayden, and a tempestuous finale ensued, with both Sead Hajrovic and Parrett booked following a contretemps.
Josh Rees, on as a substitute, then had a seemingly legitimate penalty claim turned down, but Munns struck again in stoppage time to make certain of Tottenham’s victory. Akpom had another effort cleared off the line at the death but, despite his best efforts, Arsenal returned to London Colney with a defeat.
U18 Premier League
Arsenal 1 (Fagan) Aston Villa 6
Meanwhile, a far more experienced U18s side than the ones that have been fielded in recent weeks suffered a 6-0 defeat at the hands of a Dan Crowley-inspired Aston Villa side at London Colney.
Several members of this season’s FA Youth Cup squad were included, but Arsenal still fell to their third consecutive defeat at this level, having been five goals down by the break. Zach Fagan’s late strike, his first goal at this level, was barely a consolation.
subs: Smith (for O’Connor), Hinds (for Maitland-Niles)
*Full analysis from this fixture to come on Monday.