U21 Premier League- Game 14
Reading 2 (Tanner 27, Tshibola 38) Arsenal 1 (Hayden 45)
Arsenal U21s suffered a double dose of misery at the Madejski Stadium this evening as they continued their disappointing recent league form by losing 2-1 to an impressive Reading side, whilst also seeing defender Tafari Moore stretchered off due to injury.
Reading scored twice in eleven minutes to leave Arsenal reeling, with Moore’s injury, which makes him a doubt for the FA Youth Cup tie with Charlton Athletic on Friday, compounding matters further. Isaac Hayden reduced the deficit with a well-taken goal on the stroke of half-time, but Reading came closest to scoring again in the second-half.
Steve Gatting made just two changes from the side that drew with Southampton last time out with Gedion Zelalem and Julio Pleguezuelo coming into the team in place of Stefan O’Connor and Yaya Sanogo. Ryo Miyaichi started up front for the second time this season.
subs: Fagan (for Moore, 35), Lipman (for Zelalem, 62), Kamara (for Pleguezuelo, 89).
Not used: Iwobi, Iliev
Arsenal started well, dominating the early stages in terms of possession without creating too many clear-cut chances.
Reading responded with a vengeance, however, with Aaron Tshibola forcing Matt Macey into a good save before the Arsenal goalkeeper was called upon again shortly afterwards to deny Gozie Ugwu.
Arsenal’s resilience was finally broken in the 27th minute courtesy of a fine Reading move. Sean Long found Jack Stacey in space and the latter delivered an expert cross into the penalty area which was met by Craig Tanner, who opened the scoring with a well-placed finish.
Arsenal’s misery was then compounded by a serious-looking injury suffered by right-back Moore which forced the England U17 international to be stretchered from the field. He was replaced by Zach Fagan, who was making his first competitive appearance of the season after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
No sooner had he entered the fray, however, then Arsenal were two goals down. Once again an inch-perfect cross proved to be the Gunners’ undoing, with Tshibola this time on hand to provide the finishing touch.
It seemed as if the first-half was going to end in misery for Arsenal, but they earned themselves a lifeline just before the break when Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill swung in a good cross from the left flank and Hayden finished emphatically to halve Reading’s lead.
Arsenal sought to equalise as soon as the second-half got underway and they nearly found an opening after Kristoffer Olsson played in Jon Toral, but the Spaniard’s centre was cut out before it could cause any damage.
Austin Lipman then replaced Zelalem and Arsenal looked a better attacking unit with a recognised striker on the field. They nearly levelled through Hayden, but the midfielder’s effort was well held, whilst, moments earlier Eisfeld had directed a shot wide from distance.
Eisfeld, usually so clinical in front of goal, then passed up another presentable opportunity when he was found by Ryo and Arsenal were almost made to pay for their profligacy with Ugwu shooting just wide following a swift counter-attack before the same player rattled a post after getting the better of Ormonde-Ottewill.
Reading eventually prevailed, meaning Arsenal have now failed to win any of their last seven league games at this level, stretching back to November. Their progression in the U21 Premier League Cup has rather glossed over that statistic, but Gatting will be wary that Reading, should they overcome Wolverhampton Wanderers this week, will provide Arsenal’s opposition in the Semi-Finals of that competition.