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
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.