U18 Premier League- Game 21
Chelsea 2 (Clarke-Salter 80, Abraham (pen) 85) Arsenal 2 (Smith 56, Mavididi 72)
Arsenal U18s came perilously close to registering their first away league victory of the season today, but a late penalty meant they had to settle for a point against an inexperienced Chelsea side at a blustery Cobham.
Coach Carl Laraman made four alterations to the side that defeated Southampton last week, with Renny Smith, Alfred Mugabo, Tyrell Robinson and Stephy Mavididi coming in for Glen Kamara, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Alex Iwobi and Austin Lipman.
subs: Johnson (for Uade, 59), Bola (for Mugabo, 81). Not used: Vickers.
Chelsea, whose starting line-up included seven players from their U16 side, were the dominant team in a first-half that yielded little in terms of clear-cut chances. Arsenal goalkeeper Ryan Huddart had to be alert, though, to gather Kasey Palmer’s dangerous free-kick, before later making impressive stops from Tammy Abraham and Muhktar Ali.
Arsenal’s most notable attacking forays in the opening period came courtesy of Robinson, with the schoolboy, who has been hugely impressive this season, causing considerable problems for the Chelsea defence with his pace and trickery down the left flank.
After much brinkmanship, the contest finally exploded into life in the second-half, and it seemed rather appropriate that Smith was the player to open the scoring. Released by Chelsea around this time last year, the youngster has adapted well to life at Arsenal and put the Gunners ahead by capitalising on a defensive mistake and lofting the ball over the on-rushing Chelsea goalkeeper Brad Collins.
Smith could have scored again shortly afterwards, but Arsenal’s second goal came from a different source with the lively schoolboy Mavididi finishing calmly past Collins for his third goal at this level this season.
Arsenal’s lead would be halved eight minutes later, though, with Jake Clarke-Salter latching onto Kyle Scott’s cross before firing the ball past the stranded Huddart.
Chelsea cranked up the pressure in the closing stages and it finally told with the referee pointing to the penalty spot after Abraham was alleged to have been fouled in the area. The striker, who has been with Chelsea since under-8 level, took the spot-kick himself and converted confidently past Huddart to earn the hosts a point.
It was a little disappointing for Laraman’s side to squander a two goal lead, particularly in such circumstances, but their overall level of performance has certainly improved in recent weeks, which is being reflected in some more positive results.
They are scheduled to face Tottenham Hotspur at London Colney next Friday, but that game may well be re-arranged due to Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup commitments.