UEFA Youth League Arsenal 1 Basel 2
By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow
Arsenal U19s are still seeking to kickstart their UEFA Youth League campaign after they suffered an agonising 2-1 defeat at home to Basel today.
The young Gunners, wearing their away kit, fell behind to a spectacular long range strike from Eray Cumart before Vlad Dragomir equalised after the break.
However, with Krystian Bielik having to be substituted at half time after clattering into the advertising hoardings, Arsenal had much defending giving in the second period.
It appeared that they had done enough to secure a point but the referee gave Basel a controversial late penalty when Chiori Johnson was adjudged to have handled in the area.
Basel’s Neftali Manzambi converted the spot kick and Arsenal now have just one point from their first two games.
Andries Jonker fielded a strong side but Chris Willock and Jeff Reine-Adelaide were absent.
Schoolboy Trae Coyle made the bench, as did Kaylen Hinds, who is over his latest injury setback.
Basel were presented with an opportunity to take the lead early on following a mistake from Kristopher Da Graca but they were unable to take advantage.
Arsenal then started to dominate proceedings and they kept the ball well without ever really threatening the Basel goal in the first half.
Stephy Mavididi laid the ball off superbly for Donyell Malen, but the Dutchman couldn’t quite latch onto it.
The young Gunners continued to lead the way in terms of possession but there was always a danger that they could get caught out on the break and Bielik had to make an impressive intervention to cut out the danger on one occasion.
Hugo Keto then had to save with his feet after his goal kick went straight to a Basel player.
Soon Keto was picking the ball out of the back of the net following a spectacular effort from Cumart from the halfway line that deceived the Finnish goalkeeper.
In a half that wasn’t exactly incident packed this was a dramatic moment.
Matters then turned from bad to worse for Arsenal as Bielik crashed into an advertising hoarding and suffered what appeared to be a serious injury.
Bielik was replaced by Tolaji Bola for the start of the second half, and Arsenal seemed intent on equalising straight away.
They signalled their intent when Dragomir saw his free-kick gathered and the Romanian found the net with his next attempt as he finished neatly following good work from Marc Bola.
Despite equalising, Arsenal then found themselves under a significant amount of pressure from the Basel attack with the Swiss side being allowed through too easily on some occasions.
Reiss Nelson had a rare effort saved for Arsenal but he, along with Josh DaSilva, was then withdrawn, with Hinds and Coyle entering the fray.
Keto then made a good save to keep Basel at bay but the visitors continued to press for a winner and, somewhat fortuitously, they achieved their aim when a penalty was awarded and Manzambi scored.
Arsenal had no time to respond and were left devastated at the final whistle.
Jonker’s team didn’t play badly and Dragomir was particularly impressive, but Arsenal seemed to lack a spark going forwards, while the loss of Bielik proved costly.
In order to progress to the knockout stages Arsenal need to start getting points on the board, starting against Ludogorets, who were thrashed 8-1 by PSG today.
Arsenal: Keto; Johnson, Bielik, Da Graca, M. Bola; McGuane, DaSilva; Malen, Dragomir, Nelson; Mavididi.
Subs: T. Bola, Hinds, Coyle. Not used: Virginia, Mourgos, Nketiah, Osei-Tutu.