FA Youth Cup 3rd Round
Arsenal 3 (Jeffrey 23, Bellerin 43, Akpom 88) Newcastle United 0
By Jeorge Bird @ Underhill
An inspired performance from Arsenal U18s ensured that they overcame a poor Newcastle United side to reach the Fourth Round of the FA Youth Cup at Underhill this evening, with the victory serving as Steve Gatting’s first in charge at that level.
The feat was all the more commendable given that Gatting’s side were shorn of their most prized asset, with Serge Gnabry having been a late withdrawal from the squad. There was still more than enough quality to dispatch of the disappointing visitors, however, with the searing pace of Anthony Jeffrey and Hector Bellerin, who both got on the scoresheet in the first half, too much for Newcastle to deal with. Chuba Akpom, who worked hard up front all evening, turned home Bellerin’s cross late on to add further emphasis to the scoreline and nobody inside this ramshackle old ground could deny that the side in red and white were deserving winners this evening.
subs: Vickers, Lipman, Siemann, Iwobi, Brown.
Arsenal began the game firmly in control of proceedings, spreading the ball around the slick pitch in typical style, but it was the visitors who created the first chance of note when Lewis Aird cut inside the Arsenal defence and directed a shot wide.
The hosts soon reasserted their dominance, however, with Jeffrey particularly to the fore. The sprightly winger, who, somehow, has yet to earn a professional contract, burst down the right flank and crossed for the waiting Jon Toral, but the Spaniard’s shot was blocked.
That was to be one of several chances that Toral would spurn in the opening stages as the 17 year old, who was named as a left-winger on the teamsheet but in truth was given something of a free role in midfield, frequently managed to get in behind a porous Newcastle defence.
Toral turned over from Bellerin’s cross and was then robbed of possession when well placed following another precise delivery from Jeffrey but, in the midst of all that, there had been a worrying moment at the other end when Zach Fagan, who, like Jeffrey, is striving for a professional contract, stumbled on the ball, but Tom Heardman was unable to capitalise.
Akpom then saw two chances go wide in quick succession, before Arsenal’s dominance finally paid off when they took the lead. It was a neat, flowing move which led to the decisive blow, with a quick break upfield resulting in Akpom finding Jeffrey, who lashed home emphatically past Freddie Woodman for his first goal at any level this season.
Soon after Arsenal had taken the lead, Deyan Iliev, who had been criminally underworked in the Gunners’ goal, did well to hold a free-kick from distance, but it was down the other end where the majority of the action was taking place, with Isaac Hayden seeing a header cleared off the line before Bellerin made it 2-0 with a sweet strike after interchanging passes with his compatriot Toral.
Iliev nearly handed Newcastle an instant reprieve after his poor clearance presented the visitors with a shot on goal, but the Macedonian goalkeeper redeemed himself with a stunning save from the subsequent shot.
Newcastle turned in a marginally improved performance in the second period, but that is not saying much. Arsenal still had the majority of possession, they just didn’t use the ball as decisively as they had done in the first-half.
Alfred Mugabo, the man who benefitted from Gnabry’s exclusion by being promoted to the starting line-up, skewed an effort wide, before Jonathyn Quinn replied with a tame effort down the other end.
Akpom then did well to create space for himself with a sublime piece of skill, but his shot lacked conviction and he could only divert the ball into the side-netting. All the while, Jeffrey was a persistent menace on either flank, sending in a dangerous ball that just eluded Jack Jebb before having a shot blocked himself.
Toral, Kristoffer Olsson and Jebb all spurned further opportunities, before schoolboy substitute Jordan Brown, who scored his first goal for the U18s last weekend in the heavy defeat against West Bromwich Albion, was introduced in place of the tiring Jeffrey.
It says something about how highly Brown was regarded when he was thrown on, despite the more experienced options of Austin Lipman and Alex Iwobi being on the bench, and the England youth international didn’t disappoint, showing good skill before embarking on a run down the right flank and crossing for Akpom, who in turned teed up Jebb but to no avail.
Akpom finally got the goal that his perseverance deserved when he converted Bellerin’s cut-back following a move instigated by Olsson, whilst Brown fired over from a difficult angle late on, but the damage had already been done.
In all, it was a satisfying work out for Gatting’s side, and the hope now is that they can go on a long run in the competition. Newcastle, in truth, did not put up much of a fight, which is perhaps to be expected from a side sitting rock bottom of their U18 league group.
Arsenal, too, are floundering in that competition, but tonight’s side was the strongest available, and, with Gnabry to come into the team in the later rounds, the Gunners will be seeking to progress further in the competition.
Deyan Iliev-6- Kicking, like many Arsenal goalkeepers, was suspect, but redeemed himself with one good save.
Hector Bellerin-8- A real live-wire down the right flank, he caused numerous problems for the Newcastle defence.
Zach Fagan-5- Made a couple of errors which could have proved costly, but was largely assured.
Isaac Hayden-6- A real leader at the back, he was classy in possession and read the game well.
Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill-6- Wasn’t posed many problems defensively but didn’t raid forward too readily.
Alfred Mugabo-7- Demonstrated a penchant for winning the ball well in tight situations. Distribution was good.
Kristoffer Olsson-7- Impressed in a deeper role, bringing the ball forward well and creating chances.
Anthony Jeffrey-8- Although some of his crosses eluded their targets, he was a persistent threat with his pace.
Jack Jebb-5- Some good passes but missed a couple of good opportunities to extend the scoreline.
Jon Toral-7- Should have scored in the first half, but did well to set up Bellerin for the second goal.
Chuba Akpom-7- Worked very hard up front and finally got his reward with a goal late on.
Jordan Brown (for Jeffrey, 86)- A lively Youth Cup debut as he demonstrated his pace and skill.
Not used: Josh Vickers, Leander Siemann, Alex Iwobi.