U21 Premier League- Game 9
Middlesbrough 3 (Kamara 23, 44 Haroun 47). Arsenal 1 (Afobe 5)
Arsenal U21s suffered their second league defeat of the season this afternoon despite taking an early lead against Middlesbrough. Benik Afobe opened the scoring in the fifth minute, but the hosts, inspired by Kei Kamara, eventually ran out deserved victors. Arsenal’s defeat was compounded by a serious-looking injury to Dan Crowley, who was stretchered off midway through the second-half.
The headline team news saw Crowley come into the side for his first competitive start at this level with Gedion Zelalem still with the Germany U17 side at a training camp. Julio Pleguezuelo, meanwhile, made his return from injury, whilst Ainsley Maitland-Niles was also restored to the side. Jon Toral is currently away with the Spain U19 squad.
subs: Iliev, O’Connor, Kamara, Moore, Iwobi.
Arsenal attacked from the offset and, if they were seeking a fast start that is exactly what they got, with Benik Afobe opening the scoring after just five minutes with the striker seizing on a loose ball before finishing adroitly.
Arsenal were attacking with considerable dynamism in the early stages and very nearly doubled their advantage early on when Maitland-Niles found Kristoffer Olsson, with the Swedish midfielder’s effort striking the crossbar.
The impressive Maitland-Niles then did well to play in Afobe, but the latter dithered in front of goal and his effort was gathered.
That miss would prove costly with Middlesbrough equalising when Kamara, on his return from injury, did well to emphatically head the ball past Matt Macey following a dangerous cross.
Arsenal, undeterred by their concession, sought to regain their advantage immediately and their next chance fell to Maitland-Niles, whose shot was deflected wide.
Middlesbrough were always a threat on the counter-attack, however, with Kamara finding the net again before the interval to put Middlesbrough in front.
Middlesbrough, buoyed by their goal, became increasingly dominant after the interval and went 3-1 ahead when Faris Haroun capitalised on some disappointing Arsenal defending from a corner.
Things then went from bad to worse for Arsenal, with Crowley forced to be stretchered off with an injury that saw him replaced by Alex Iwobi.
Macey then had to be alert to rush off his line to prevent further damage, whilst, at the other end, Iwobi at least provided some attacking intent, with the substitute shooting wide before striking the post shortly Ap. afterwards.
Hayden then shot over but the damage had long been done. Hopefully, in the case of Crowley, it won’t be too profound.