UEFA Youth League- Matchday 3
Anderlecht 4 Arsenal 3
Dan Crowley continued his excellent form by scoring a hat-trick, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Arsenal U19s from suffering the first defeat of their UEFA Youth League campaign.
Having achieved comfortable victories over both Borussia Dortmund and Galatasaray, tonight’s game away to Anderlecht proved a considerably more challenging task for Steve Gatting’s side.
With Ryan Huddart set to be named on the bench for the first-team tomorrow night, schoolboy goalkeeper Brad House, who only made his debut for the U18s last Friday, was handed a start, whilst Elliot Wright and Stephy Mavididi replaced the injured George Dobson and Kaylen Hinds.
Arsenal had no substitute goalkeeper on the bench after again failing to comply with UEFA regulations. U15 goalkeeper George Phillips had travelled with the squad but wasn’t permitted to be named amongst the substitutes as he hadn’t been registered to play in this competition. Last season, Arsenal named just six substitutes away to Bayern Munich in the Champions League following a similar incident involving Ryo, following on from previous situations with Martin Angha and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
subs: Sheaf (for Willock, 74), Chatzitheodoridis (for Johnson, 82). Not used: Smith, Donovan, M. Bola, Centeno.
Arsenal got off to the worst possible start against Anderlecht as they conceded a penalty after just two minutes when Stefan O’Connor committed a foul in the area.
Leya Iseka took the penalty and scored to put the Belgian side in the lead and Arsenal were provided with an indication of just how difficult this game would be when Samy Bourard shot wide when well placed shortly afterwards.
The lead didn’t last for long, however, with Crowley scoring his first goal of the evening with an adroit finish.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, again deployed in a deep-lying central-midfield position, had a shot saved as Arsenal started to grow in confidence.
It was soon 2-1, with Crowley scoring again after he cleverly lifted the ball over the goalkeeper.
It was a tumultuous first-half, with both sides being presented with numerous chances in front of goal. Alex Iwobi perhaps should have done better after he was found by Chris Willock, and Arsenal were soon made to pay for that miss when Anderlecht drew level, with Iseka getting the better of House to score his second of the game.
House was then forced into a good reaction save as Anderlecht upped the ante considerably, but the hosts were in relentless mood and scored twice more before the interval to effectively put the game beyond Arsenal’s reach.
Frank Mikal made it 3-2 with a low shot before a neat passage of play culminated in Andy Kawaya making it 4-2.
Iwobi then shot over in frustration but Arsenal went into half-time demoralised and facing a momentous task to regain their lead.
To their credit, Arsenal continued to battle on in the second-half, with Chiori Johnson doing well to find Crowley, who couldn’t quite get the ball under control in time.
Maitland-Niles then shot wide before Iwobi, Arsenal’s most experienced player this evening, rattled the crossbar with a ferocious strike.
The game looked like it was petering out but Arsenal were provided with some late hope that they could salvage at least a point from this dramatic encounter when Crowley was fouled in the area and a penalty was awarded.
Crowley picked himself up and converted the spot-kick, but there wasn’t enough time remaining for Arsenal to score what would have been the game’s eighth goal.
This will be a disappointment, particularly given the impressive manner in which Arsenal had started their Youth League campaign, but a victory over Anderlecht at Boreham Wood would see Gatting’s side move a step closer towards qualification for the knockout stages.