Crowley hat-trick in vain as Arsenal U19s lose seven-goal thriller in Belgium

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.



Zelalem-Maitland Niles



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.



  1. is Akpom not allowed play in this comp or why was he not playing.
    The defending by Arsenal was pretty poor, and Crowley was very selfish in his play, he holds on to the ball too long. Needs to be a little more of a team player.

  2. Theeo thanks a million for that, I have been asking Jeorge where I can watch some highlights to no avail.
    It´s clear the difference between watching an u-19 game than the first team, so many basic mistakes and sometimes (well atleast for me who never see youth games) a bit awkward movement off the ball and with it. Maybe for the likes of me its important to see some of these games just aknowledge the huge step it takes to get into senior football. I must admit I often base my view of some of our youths through reports on sides such as these and dont understand what a good game for the u-19 means. I mean if Jeorge rates a player having an excellent game for the u-19 its in reference to u-19 football wich is maybe common sense but still you got to see it to understand.

  3. If holding on to the ball for too long gets you multiple goals or assists or both nearly every match, then count me in. I guess we don’t want any players who can win a match by themselves, do we??

  4. the thing is milo, he can get away with this at youth level, he would be destroyed at first team level, I have no problem with him holding on to the ball or beating men, when that is the right option, but he does it and loses the ball when others in far better positions to score, in recent U21 game v Blackburn Akpom and others were not at all pleased with Crowley’s selfish play. Its all about making the right decisions, and we can only hope its something he improves upon big time if we want him to make it at first team level.

    1. Akpom is one to talk, he is the most selfish in the u21 team! He could learn a thing or two about playing things simple. I don’t see how Crowley could have even passed the ball to him with about 4 players blocking the room to pass (it’s obvious which chance you are referring to). I guess you didn’t see either game anyway, just highlights. When was he selfish against anderlecht? If you are talking about his first goal, that was the bloody right option! Iwobi seemed to be “pleased” with Crowley when he called his performance “unreal”.

    2. Well said by eduardo.

      It was easy to see in this game that Crowley was holding on to the ball in situations where he needed to move the ball – and at the level up he is not going to get away with taking on 3-4 players at a time – tat kind of situation means that not only are you dealing with better quality of defender, but bigger and faster……and 2-3-4 other top players on your side are open!

      So this can look good at this level but next level up he’d better have other solutions and use those, otherwise he’ll have a hard time playing for Arsenal.

      You only have to look at Ramsey and Van Persie who had to learn to leave that stuff for final option – not first option. Zidane is another option to look at as example for a budding playmaker: Zidane, if he wanted to, he could dribble all day, but really you rarely saw that side of him – he focused on simple but incisive movement in coordination with his teammates.

      Great junior highlights but the best players are those who make others better.

  5. So his multiple assists don’t count for enhancing the play of others then, even though that could be the most tangible evidence you ever need??? Hahahahaha.

  6. you are still missing the point milo, we are saying he will not get away with being selfish at higher level, and its already been shown in a couple of the U21 games that he wastes lots of good opportunities for other to score by his selfish play. As already stated, some of his older team mates have not been pleased by his selfish play. If he learns to be a little less selfish he can become a world beater, from what I’ve seen of him so far, its the only clear weakness to his game and it would be such a pity if it hinders his chances of making it big time.

  7. Is it written in stone or ink that he won’t be able to continue his domination at a higher level? Let him express himself. I’m tired of seeing players in our various levels of youth and senior football, not have the confidence, will/effort, ability, or all three to impose themselves on the opposition. You want him to fall in line, fine. Not me.

  8. Really hope those giving strong criticism here have had the opportunity to watch Crowley more than I have. I’ve been restricted to highlights and the 90 minutes three times and don’t see how anyone in the same position could be convinced there’s a big problem with him holding the ball excessively. Have seen a couple of wondrous long and short passes in the highlights, and also ripped us to shreds with his passing in his memorable game against us for Villa, and didn’t notice any problem in the full matches (poor game, as the whole team suffered, vs Chelsea; grew into a good match vs Villa u21s; excellent in the recent Galatasaraay game).

    If you’ve watched him in the flesh to form those opinions, that of course changes my stance. But even so (a) there should be some basic rule about being relatively careful about how we talk about players who are u18 and (b) if you’re a player with fantastic dribbling ability isn’t it natural that at one stage you’ll be doing a little too much of it? You could never become a great dribbler if you didn’t do a hell of a lot of dribbling in your younger days as a player, before, as things become tougher as you move up the ladder, refining a sense of exactly how often you should be doing it. Comparing him at 17 with Zidane and other greats as they played it in their primes is therefore redundant. The comparison would have to be between those players at the same age, and no doubt they tended to hold onto the ball a lot more than they were to do once they became the finished article.

    Finally, never decide whether or not someone has made the wrong choice based on whether or not a teammate throws his hands up at not receiving the ball. Nothing annoyed me more when playing than when a teammate did this who, despite maybe having found a bit of space, was in a position where the pass could not be made because opposition players were blocking the angle of the pass. Fearful players would probably just hit it anyway and have it duly be intercepted, in the hope it’ll save them from criticism, those with an eye on becoming top players probably won’t do that, and yep, the decision to hold it while looking for something will sometimes lead to them being dispossessed.

    By the way, I’d let him have Saturday off. Feels like tempting fate to send him to Stoke away just when he’s really starting to take off again.

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