An Arsenal U19 team that was without several of their key players confirmed their place in the Last 16 of the UEFA Youth League with a 3-1 victory away to Galatasaray today.
With Gedion Zelalem, Alex Iwobi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Stefan O’Connor all on the bench for the first-team tonight, several first-year scholars were involved in this fixture, with Savvas Mourgos, Tyrell Robinson and Aaron Eyoma all starting.
Arsenal fell behind early on but responded through quick-fire goals from Stephy Mavididi and Robinson before Eyoma scored after the break to rubberstamp the victory. The young Gunners simply needed to avoid a defeat by a catastrophic margin to progress, but they deserve much credit for winning in these circumstances.
Arsenal got off to the worst possible start, with Kerem Caliskan putting Galatasaray ahead following good work from Altug Tas.
It took Arsenal a little while to re-build their confidence after that early setback but they eventually responded by creating a succession of chances before the break. Eyoma almost located Mavididi with a cross, then Chris Willock succeeded in finding the striker, who couldn’t find the net when well placed.
Arsenal were getting increasingly closer to scoring, with Dan Crowley sending a free-kick over before Mavididi rattled the crossbar after he was found once more by Willock.
Mavididi eventually found the net in the 41st minute with a strike that took a deflection and fooled the opposing goalkeeper and it was soon a double cause for celebration for Arsenal when Robinson capped off an individual run with a fine strike.
Both Mavididi and Robinson received cautions for their respective celebrations following their goals, but they could be forgiven for their delight at finally making the breakthrough.
The game was effectively put beyond doubt early in the second-half when Eyoma scored after Mavididi’s cross caused problems for the Galatasaray defence.
Arsenal goalkeeper Ryan Huddart had to make some intelligent saves to preserve the 3-1 scoreline but Arsenal held on for a deserved victory and can now look forward to the knockout stages.
Arsenal: Huddart; Johnson, Dobson, Smith, Robinson (Chatzitheodoridis, 85); Sheaf, Mourgos (Donovan, 70); Eyoma, Crowley, Willock; Mavididi (Da Silva, 82). Not used: Keto, Centeno, Da Graca.