U18 Premier League- Game 8
Aston Villa 2 Arsenal 1 (Mavididi)
Arsenal U18’s disappointing run of form continued with a 2-1 defeat away to Aston Villa on Saturday. Villa took the lead early on and, although Arsenal equalised through a Renny Smith strike that deflected off Stephy Mavididi, the hosts proceeded to seal the points late on. Arsenal were somewhat unfortunate not to emerge with any points, however, particularly after Mavididi missed a penalty and fellow schoolboy Tyrell Robinson struck the crossbar.
Coach Carl Laraman made three changes from the side that drew with Bolton Wanderers last time out, with Leander Siemann, Robinson and Mavididi coming into the side. Schoolboys Chiori Johnson and George Dobson retained their places in the starting line-up, whilst all of the outfield substitutes were under-16 players.
subs: Iliev, Eyoma, Thorbourne, Bola, Ejaria.
Villa started the strongest and took the lead after Thomas Strain capitalised on Ryan Huddart’s hesitation to head home a dangerous cross.
Arsenal responded almost instantly, however, with Mavididi doing well to win a free-kick which was taken by the in-form Jamaal Raage. The Swedish youngster’s effort was a powerful one and forced Villa goalkeeper Aidan Grant to tip the ball out for a corner via the crossbar.
Arsenal’s momentum eventually came to fruition with Tarum Dawkins doing well to find Smith who struck a powerful effort into the net and out of the reach of Grant. Replays showed that Smith’s strike took a decisive deflection off Mavididi, meaning that the goal counted as the latter’s first at this level.
The Gunners could then have taken the lead early in the second-half after Dobson threaded the ball through to Robinson, and the winger went for goal with a stupendous effort that rattled the crossbar.
The diligent Dobson then played another perceptive pass into the path of Mavididi, who was brought down in the area. Mavididi stepped up to take the spot-kick himself but, despite getting much power behind the ball, was unfortunate to see it ricochet off the post.
Villa made Arsenal pay for their misfortune, with a quick passing move culminating in Jerell Sellars stroking the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-1 to the home side.
The two Villa goalscorers then combined in the closing stages, but Strain somehow headed against the post after yet more excellent work from Sellars.
Arsenal’s next game at this level is at home to Reading a week on Saturday, with Laraman’s admittedly inexperienced side having registered just six points from their first eight games.