NextGen Series Last 16
Inter Milan 0 Arsenal 1 (Yennaris)
A stunning second-half strike from Nico Yennaris ensured Arsenal’s progression to the Quarter-Finals of the NextGen Series and, in so doing, knocked out holders Inter Milan on a torturous pitch in Italy.
Yennaris provided the only real moment of quality in a match in which clear-cut opportunities were very difficult to come by, owing largely to the poor conditions of a pitch which seemed submerged in water. Nonetheless, that will make victory all the sweeter for the young Gunners, whose reward is a home tie against CSKA Moscow and a genuine chance of winning this competition at the first attempt.
There were few surprises in Terry Burton’s team selection, apart from, perhaps, the decision to start Isaac Hayden over the older Jordan Wynter in midfield alongside Yennaris. This was an Arsenal side shorn of two of its most creative assets in the absence of injured duo Thomas Eisfeld and Jon Toral, but Burton could still call upon the likes of Serge Gnabry, Zak Ansah and Chuba Akpom against a strong Inter outfit.
subs: Vickers, Ormonde-Ottewill, Mugabo, Jebb, Iwobi, Wynter, Lipman.
The first ten minutes of proceedings could be classified as something of a non-event as both sides struggled to adapt to the treacherous conditions, and it was not until midway through the first half that either side came close, with Lorenzo Tassi squandering an opportunity before Isaac Donkor was fortunate not to turn the ball into his own net at the other end.
Sead Hajrovic and Hector Bellerin both picked up yellow cards for rash challenges as the half wore on but, other than a half-hearted penalty appeal from Inter, the remainder of the first 45 minutes rather fizzled out.
Yennaris finally provided a moment of inspiration in a game which was desperately lacking in moments of star quality, with the midfielder taking a touch to steady himself before rifling home an unstoppable effort from distance to score what proved to be the only goal of the game.
Wynter then replaced Hajrovic as Arsenal looked to hold on for a commendable victory and, despite both Yennaris and goalkeeper Deyan Iliev receiving yellow cards, they managed to do so, with Austin Lipman introduced in place of Serge Gnabry late on to help run the clock down even further.
It was an incredibly difficult tie in its own right even before the conditions, which rendered the game almost unplayable at times, are taken into account, and the club will take great pride from the fact that they managed to negotiate this most difficult of obstacles.
Earlier in the campaign, when they were struggling to grind out results in the group stage against sides with considerably less quality than Inter, the notion of Arsenal winning this competition seemed rather fanciful. Now, should they dispatch of CSKA Moscow, they will be on the verge of a stunning triumph.