FA Youth Cup- Quarter-Final
Arsenal 2 (Mavididi 51, Hinds 58) Liverpool 1 (Masterson 54)
By Jeorge Bird @Emirates Stadium
Arsenal U18s secured their place in the last four of the FA Youth Cup with a hugely impressive 2-1 victory over their Liverpool counterparts at Emirates Stadium tonight.
In front of a 3,000-strong crowd, the young Gunners, after much probing, took the lead through Stephy Mavididi, who was preferred to Donyell Malen up front. Liverpool responded almost immediately when Conor Masterson pounced upon some disappointing defending, but Arsenal were the more impressive side throughout and were duly rewarded when Kaylen Hinds finished well from Tyrell Robinson’s cross to secure what proved to be the winner and set up an intriguing Semi-Final tie with Manchester City.
There were some excellent performances from those in red and white, with Hinds, Chris Willock, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Ismael Bennacer and Krystian Bielik amongst the players who caught the eye.
The decision to start Mavididi ahead of Malen was vindicated, whilst Ben Sheaf was deployed at right-back in the absence of Chiori Johnson.
Reine Adelaide-Hinds-C. Willock
Subs: Virginia, Da Graca, Dasilva, Nelson (for C. Willock, 90), Malen (for Mavididi, 81).
Liverpool started brightly, with Adam Phillips seeing an effort gathered by Hugo Keto, but it wasn’t long until Arsenal provided the first indication of their quality when Mavididi laid the ball off intelligently to Hinds and received possession back from his team-mate, although his subsequent shot was saved.
Chances were few and far between for both sides in the opening period, but Arsenal did strike the crossbar through Bennacer’s free-kick as they sought to take control of proceedings.
All the while, Reine-Adelaide was a persistent threat to the Liverpool defence with his mazy runs and tricks, although the Frenchman’s final pass did let him down on a couple of occasions.
Liverpool saw a lot of the ball in the first half, but they struggled to make that possession count, although Ovie Ejaria, a Hale End product, was lively.
Arsenal ended the first half in the ascendancy, with Hinds, Willock and Sheaf all trying their luck.
After the break they stepped up another gear, although they were provided with a warning sign when Marc Bola’s hashed clearance presented Toni Gomes with an opportunity to score. The striker headed wide and shortly afterwards Arsenal took the lead, with Reine-Adelaide’s precise corner eventually falling to Mavididi, who made no mistake from close range.
As was the case in the U21 game against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday, however, Arsenal’s lead didn’t last very long at all, with Liverpool, and Masterson in particular, punishing the Gunners after they failed to clear the danger.
In an enthralling game, Arsenal responded with another goal just four minutes later, and that strike proved to be the winner. Hinds was granted hero status after latching on to a cross from the marauding Robinson, sparking jubilant celebrations amongst the Arsenal players.
Arsenal then sought to put the game beyond doubt, with Mavididi and Bielik both failing to find the net with headed efforts. Willock had a fierce attempt saved and Sheaf shot wide, with the hosts starting to express themselves.
There were a couple of worrying moments towards the end, with Gomes, in one instance, seeing an overhead kick stopped by Keto, but Arsenal managed to hold on and, on the balance of play, were deserved winners.
City will undoubtedly be a difficult side to overcome, but for now Arsenal’s youngsters can reflect on a hugely satisfying evening. It may not have carried the drama of the win over Coventry City in the previous round, but tonight’s encounter was hugely entertaining nonetheless.
Arsenal’s cause in this competition is helped by the fact that many of the players on show are second-years, and there is now hope that they can go all the way.