Arsenal U19s commenced their UEFA Youth League campaign in impressive style today as they secured a 2-0 victory away to Dinamo Zagreb.
Chris Willock played a prominent part in proceedings, with the England youth international opening the scoring with an excellent strike before winning the penalty from which Ben Sheaf made it 2-0.
Arsenal were able to field a very strong side, especially in an attacking sense, despite the fact that they were without the injured Jeff Reine-Adelaide. In the Frenchman’s absence, schoolboy Reiss Nelson was afforded a start and was largely impressive.
Subs: Huddart, Da Graca, T. Bola, Agyei-Tabi, Mourgos, Eyoma (for Hinds, 86), Dasilva (for C. Willock, 77).
Zagreb started brightly, with Amer Gojak doing well to find Ivan Bozic, but the latter’s effort was well held by Hugo Keto.
Arsenal then provided an indication of their attacking attributes as Nelson exchanged passes with Alex Iwobi in a neat move, but Stephy Mavididi was unable to apply the finishing touch.
Nelson then went for goal himself but saw his shot saved after he was located by Krystian Bielik. Keto subsequently had to make a couple of commendable saves as Zagreb briefly threatened, but Arsenal ended the half in the ascendancy and managed to take the lead before the interval.
Firstly Mavididi shot just over then Willock opened the scoring in impressive fashion as he manoeuvred his way past two players prior to finishing adroitly.
Arsenal’s dominance continued after the break, with Iwobi having a shot saved and Bielik heading over from a corner.
The young Gunners were evidently in control of procedings and they then doubled their advantage when the ever-dangerous Willock was fouled in the penalty area and Sheaf converted the spot-kick.
Zagreb weren’t exactly a spent force, however, and threatened the Arsenal goal thereafter, hitting the woodwork with one opportunity.
However, Arsenal’s lead remained intact and this victory represents an excellent start to the group stages for the youngsters. The pre-season success in South Africa rather whetted the appetite for a fruitful Youth League campaign and, even though there is a very long way to go, the early signs are certainly very promising indeed.