U18 Premier League- Game 4
Arsenal 1 (Iwobi 15) Manchester United 2 (Fletcher 31, Wilson 58)
A strong Arsenal U18s side were edged out by Manchester United at London Colney this morning. The Gunners took the lead when Alex Iwobi turned home the re-bound after Chuba Akpom had a penalty saved, but United seized the initiative from then on and established a lead, which they held on to despite some late pressure from Carl Laraman’s side.
Aside from those currently injured or on international duty, this was the strongest possible side that Arsenal could have fielded at this level, with Gedion Zelalem and Akpom both starting. Zelalem, now officially part of the first-team squad, made his first appearance for the U18s, whilst Iwobi and Dan Crowley also came into the side. Matt Macey, who is on trial after leaving Bristol Rovers, started in goal.
subs: Huddart, Smith, Raage, Maitland-Niles (for Crowley, 31), Lipman (for Wright, 67).
United started in the ascendancy and almost took the lead after just two minutes when striker Ashley Fletcher struck a post with a fierce effort, but Arsenal gradually assumed control of proceedings, with the technically-talented duo of Zelalem and Crowley dovetailing to excellent effect.
Indeed, Crowley played a key role in putting Arsenal ahead, with the midfielder exchanging passes with Alex Iwobi before being brought down in the penalty area by Callum Evans. Akpom, seeking to continue his impressive scoring record from last season, stepped up to take it, but saw his spot-kick saved.
Thankfully, Iwobi was on hand to turn home the re-bound and open the scoring to cap off an impressive start to the season for the second-year scholar. Akpom then threatened the United defence without receiving a presentable goalscoring opportunity, but United were always a threat at the other end, particularly through striker James Wilson.
First, Wilson should have done better when well placed after capitalising on some inept Arsenal defending, but, just a couple of minutes later, the same player turned provider for Fletcher, who beat Macey to draw United level.
Arsenal’s misery at squandering their lead was compounded by the fact that Crowley, for the second time already this season, had to withdraw early through injury, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles entering the fray.
United continued to pose the Arsenal defence a multitude of problems, with Macey doing well to keep out Josh Harrop’s well-struck free-kick following a late challenge by Tom Dallison.
Wilson then shot wide as United continued their attempt to restore their lead and Fletcher also came close before the break.
In the midst of all that, Akpom had a seemingly legitimate penalty claim turned down as the clock ticked towards half-time, with the striker receiving a yellow card for his protests.
United’s free-flowing attacking play continued after the break, with Wilson coming close. That was a warning sign for Arsenal and it was one that wasn’t heeded, as, shortly afterwards, the same player managed to escape the challenges of four opponents before making it 2-1 with a precise finish.
Arsenal signalled their intent for a comeback by introducing Austin Lipman in place of Elliot Wright, but, despite Akpom and Jebb both coming close, United held on for the victory.
Arsenal face Stoke City next Saturday having accrued four points from their first four games this season.