UEFA Youth League report- Defeat to Anderlecht raises questions about qualification

UEFA Youth League 

Arsenal 1 Anderlecht 2

After making such an impressive start to their UEFA Youth League campaign, Arsenal U19s now face a battle to reach the knockout stages of this competition.

Their defeat to Anderlecht this afternoon, which followed on from a 4-3 loss in Belgium, leaves the young Gunners in second place in their group, ahead of Galatasaray only on goal difference.

Anderlecht capitalised on a slow start from Arsenal to take the lead, but, although the home side drew level through the effervescent Dan Crowley, Anderlecht struck again in the second-half to claim all three points.

Arsenal made three changes from the away fixture against Anderlecht, with Ryan Huddart, Marc Bola and George Dobson all coming into the side.


T. Moore-Dobson-O’Connor-M. Bola

Zelalem-Maitland Niles



subs: Eyoma (for Mavdidi, 84), Robinson (for M. Bola, 90). Not used: House, Chatzitheodoridis, Johnson, Sheaf, Smith.

Huddart, who was on the bench for the Champions League encounter between these two a fortnight ago, was called into action early on as he made a good save from Bilal Jellal.

Crowley responded with a free-kick that was gathered by Mile Svilar, but, as they did in Belgium, Arsenal soon fell behind to an early goal.

Samuel Bastien was the goalscorer as he capitalised on some static defending to place the ball beyond the reach of Huddart.

The lively Samy Bourard threatened to make it 2-0 shortly afterwards and you were left wondering just where Arsenal would be without the considerable talents of Crowley.

The diminutive midfielder was once again Arsenal’s creator-in-chief and he engineered an inviting chance for Stephy Mavididi, but the striker’s header couldn’t get the better of Svilar.

Arsenal were on the ropes at one point, with first Huddart and then Stefan O’Connor coming to the rescue of the team.

Gradually Arsenal began to see more of the ball, however, and they eventually were rewarded for their persistence when they drew level in the 22nd minute. It came as little surprise that Crowley was the goalscorer, with the 17-year-old having found the net frequently this season. Here, exchanged passes with Chris Willock before finishing well for his fifth goal in three games in this competition.

The goal buoyed Arsenal, and a succession of chances followed, with Alex Iwobi shooting wide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, perhaps attempting to replicate his wonder strike for the U21s against Stoke City, firing over from long range.

Despite not being at their best, Arsenal could be relatively satisfied with the 1-1 scoreline at the interval.

After the break, however, things took a turn for the worse, with Anderlecht upping the ante considerably. Huddart made an excellent save to deny Franck Mikal, then Dobson did well to clear the danger under pressure.

Anderlecht squandered another chance and then Huddart was called into action again, with the promising young goalkeeper doing extremely well to tip Jorn Vancamp’s effort over the crossbar.

Arsenal threatened occasionally, with one such example being Gedion Zelalem’s effort that went just wide. However, Vancamp would not be denied for much longer, with the striker heading home after Huddart’s punch saw the ball fall invitingly into his path.

Arsenal still had their moments in the closing stages as they looked to snatch an equaliser. Iwobi and Dobson had efforts saved, but Arsenal can’t afford many more slip-ups if they are to progress further in this competition.



  1. Huddart was solid, pity he made a mistake for the winner. O’Coonor best of the defense, Moore and bola were ok, but Dobson looks too small and slow to make it at CB, he actually reminds me of Tom Cruise. Zelalem was ok when facing forward, but kept losing the ball way too easy when needing to turn toward their goal. Iwobi and Maitland-Niles were impressive. Willock had some good moments. Mavididi was missing in action. Crowley took his goal well and at times was sublime, but he really does overhog the ball, so many moves broke down cos he tried to do it all himself. if he can iron this out of his game we could have a star in the making.

    One big worry is that despite playing well in the first half, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi and Crowley went totally out of the game in the second half once Anderlecht man marked them.

    found it odd too that subs not brought on midway through second half seeing as we were struggling so much.

  2. I thought Zelalem, Crowley and Iwobi were really bad. I like the look of Willock. The team didn’t play good at all. Zelalem and Crowley constantly try to turn like it change anything in our play…. I would like more short passes and quick movement rather than turning and turning with the ball.

  3. Tough match. Thought we looked very good for about 20 minutes during the first half but then dropped down quite a way for all the second half. Noticeable immediately that whereas the ref in the Gala game gave a free-kick any time someone grabbed an arm or had a bite after the ball had been played, this one let 90% of those things go.

    The style of reffing was great for us in the Gala game, as their players soon became dispirited at their inability to gain an advantage with those little fouls, which suited our game perfectly. Alas, we can’t have a ref like that every time, and you have to be able to cope with different officiating (especially where our players hope to make it to!)

    Don’t want to criticise players too much as it always seemed likely a team of predominately 16 and 17 year olds would have some big struggles physically in this competition given that most teams are made up more or 17 and 18 year olds ,and the difference is simply and literally massive ; however, it concerns me a bit that, just like with the senior team, there seems a shortage of players who can, when the situation demands it, really get about (only cliches will do sometimes) our opponents, closing them down quickly and, yes, testing a referee with niggly fouls.

    Maitland-Niles was an impressive exception (seriously like the look of that kid) but otherwise no, other than the defenders everyone looks like their schooling has exclusively consisted of what to do when on the ball. For the most part they are unbelievably clean- you’ll see a player be kicked or pushed four or five times while playing the ball who then closes down himself without leaving a finger or boot on the opposition. I don’t want dirty players, but the whole club probably needs to see a bit more balance introduced to the ethos.

    As for Crowley, ridiculously exciting talent, but I’m finding it hard to build up hopes appropriate to it, because I don’t know how he can avoid getting kicked from pillar to post in the prem environment

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