Premier League International Cup
Arsenal 5 (Dragomir 30, Reine-Adelaide 36, 78 Osei-Tutu 77, Smith Rowe 84) Bayern Munich 2 (Awoudja 48, Wriedt 60)
By Jeorge Bird @Meadow Park, Borehamwood
Jeff Reine-Adelaide hit a brace, while Emile Smith Rowe scored and provided two assists as Arsenal U23s survived a scare against a spirited Bayern Munich side to win 5-2 and secure their place in the knockout stages of the Premier League International Cup.
In an enthralling encounter, Arsenal, who needed a victory to guarantee progress, established a two-goal advantage courtesy of efforts from the impressive Vlad Dragomir and Reine-Adelaide.
However, Bayern, backed by a small contingent of travelling supporters, managed to claw their way back into the game, with Maxime Awoudja heading in before Okyere Wriedt capitalised upon a mistake from Arsenal goalkeeper Hugo Keto to equalise.
Arsenal, however, showed excellent determination to take all three points, with Jordi Osei-Tutu, Reine-Adelaide and finally Smith Rowe all scoring in a frantic finale.
The young Gunners were without Matt Macey, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah, who trained with the first-team today, but they could call upon a member of Arsene Wenger’s squad in Rob Holding.
Meanwhile, Keto and Smith Rowe also came into the side, with captain Julio Pleguezuelo moving to left wing-back, while Dragomir was deployed up front.
Marcus McGuane returned to the squad and was named amongst the substitutes, where he was joined by Tyreece John-Jules and Trae Coyle, who impressed in Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup victory over Liverpool last weekend.
Smith Rowe-Reine Adelaide
Subs: T. Bola (for Pleguezuelo, 51). Not used: Virginia, McGuane, Coyle, John-Jules.
Arsenal were full of confidence following their emphatic victory over Manchester United last week, but it soon became apparent that they weren’t going to have matters all their own way against a spirited Bayern side.
Although they put Bayern under pressure early on, with Smith Rowe and Willock impressing, it was proving difficult for Arsenal to break down their German opponents in what was a rather physical encounter.
Keto had to be alert to make an impressive stop to thwart Adrian Fein, but Arsenal responded by creating a chance of their own as Willock embarked on a bold run before playing the ball into the path of the on-rushing Osei-Tutu, who couldn’t quite find the net.
Bayern remained a threat and almost scored following a dangerous cross before then sending a headed effort over.
Arsenal remained undeterred, however, and were constantly seeking to find gaps that they could exploit in the Bayern defence.
They eventually made the breakthrough on the half hour mark, with Willock bursting forwards again and this time picking out Dragomir, who did a passable Nketiah impression as he swivelled and finished expertly.
Willock then shot wide after being teed up by the increasingly influential Reine-Adelaide, with Arsenal starting to grow in confidence.
It was soon 2-0 and Dragomir was at the forefront of proceedings again, with the Romanian this time bamboozling the Bayern defence with an excellent piece of trickery before locating Reine-Adelaide, who finished well.
Reine-Adelaide had another shot saved but at the other end Keto kept out an effort from Milos Pantovic as Arsenal were reminded that Bayern weren’t out of this game yet.
If Arsenal were hoping for a comfortable second half then they were sadly mistaken as what followed was extremely dramatic.
Bayern commenced the second half in confident mood, with Ben Sheaf having to make a clearance.
Soon the visitors managed to pull a goal back, with Awoudja reducing the deficit as he headed in from a corner.
Arsenal were then dealt another blow as Pleguezuelo hobbled off injured and was replaced by Tolaji Bola, while Bayern continued to push forwards with regularity.
Keto made a superb stop to preserve Arsenal’s lead but the Finnish goalkeeper was then culpable as his mistake gifted Bayern the opportunity to equalise, which Wriedt duly took.
Suddenly the game started to open up even more, but that actually suited Arsenal, especially Osei-Tutu, who frequently managed to get down the right flank.
It was Osei-Tutu who would score what would prove to be the decisive goal as he fired in emphatically to put Arsenal back in front.
Bayern appeared to lose all confidence thereafter and Arsenal revelled in inflicting further misery upon their opponents.
Firstly Reine-Adelaide got his second goal of the game as he was set up by Smith Rowe, with the latter then capping off an excellent display by getting on the scoresheet himself.
The scoreline could have been even more emphatic had Willock’s effort not rattled a post, but this was an impressive result for Arsenal.
Arsenal didn’t defend particularly badly but they were still vulnerable at times, especially from set-pieces.
However, in an attacking sense Steve Gatting’s side were very impressive despite the fact that they were without Nelson and Nketiah.
Dragomir was very effective up front, with Smith Rowe and Reine-Adelaide dictating proceedings behind him, while Willock again caught the eye.
Konstantinos Mavropanos, meanwhile, relished the physical battle in the second half and made some important interventions.
Arsenal will hope to go all the way in this competition, but they must now switch their focus back to Premier League 2 as they visit Sunderland on Sunday.