FA Youth Cup- Semi-Final, 1st Leg
Manchester City 2 (Nmecha, Buckley-Ricketts) Arsenal 1 (Reine-Adelaide)
Arsenal have much work to do in the second leg at Emirates Stadium if they are to reach the final of the FA Youth Cup after they were beaten 2-1 away by Manchester City in the first leg of their semi-final tie tonight despite taking an early lead through Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
A strong City side responded, with Lukas Nmecha equalising before Isaac Buckley-Ricketts provided his team with an advantage at the midway point of the tie.
Arsenal made one alteration from the victory over Liverpool in the quarter-finals, with Chiori Johnson replacing Marcus McGuane, meaning Ben Sheaf moved into midfield.
Reine Adelaide-Hinds-C. Willock
Subs: Da Graca (for Johnson, 77), Nelson (for C. Willock, 77). Not used: Virginia, McGuane, Malen.
Arsenal started extremely brightly and they got off to the best possible start as they opened the scoring with just four minutes on the clock.
Reine-Adelaide was the scorer, with the Frenchman driving forwards before finding the net with an astute finish to put the young Gunners in the lead.
They very nearly doubled that advantage shortly afterwards, with the ever lively Kaylen Hinds hitting a post.
At that point it seemed as if Arsenal were going to run away with the game, but City gradually started to assert themselves on proceedings, with Aaron Nemane causing problems for the visitors.
City then had a goal ruled out for offside, and, although Arsenal threatened again through Reine-Adelaide, whose effort clipped the top of the crossbar, it was the home side who would score the next goal.
Nmecha burst forwards and sent a powerful effort into the top corner to level proceedings and crush Arsenal’s momentum.
That goal provided City with an injection of confidence, and Nmecha almost doubled his tally.
Arsenal goalkeeper Hugo Keto, who has been hugely impressive in this competition this campaign, then had to be alert to make a good save to keep the scores level, but the Finnish youth international was powerless to prevent Buckley-Ricketts from making 2-1 in the 39th minute.
City continued to threaten in the second period, with Johnson forced into making a goal-line clearance. Arsenal had to wait until the 56th minute for their first chance of the second half, but Stephy Mavididi was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, with the forward dragging his shot wide.
It was City who were the more dangerous side, however, and the hosts came perilously close to making it 3-1, with Nmecha’s effort being deflected wide after Keto had done well to save from Nemane.
Arsenal, to their credit, tried their utmost to gain a foothold, with Sheaf sending an effort over the crossbar, but time was running out for them to get an equaliser.
Reiss Nelson and Kristopher Da Graca then entered the fray as Arsenal looked to turn matters around, and Krystian Bielik shot over from distance, but still City’s lead remained intact.
Both teams had players booked for diving in the closing stages, with Hinds and City substitute Tom Dele-Bashiru both being penalised, but that didn’t spoil what had been a rather entertaining game.
As far as Arsenal are concerned, though, they will be fully aware that an attack-minded approach will be necessary in the second leg as they seek to reach the final.