FA Youth Cup fifth round
Middlesbrough 2 Arsenal 3 (Smith Rowe, John-Jules, Ballard)
Captain Daniel Ballard scored the winner as Arsenal U18s secured their place in the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup with a hard-fought 3-2 victory away to Middlesbrough tonight.
Kwame Ampadu’s side, who prevailed past Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool to reach this stage, established a two-goal lead courtesy of strikes from two in-form players in Emile Smith Rowe and Tyreece John-Jules.
However, Middlesbrough showed commendable determination to pull level before the break, with Tyrone O’Neill and Nicholas Hood getting on the scoresheet.
Arsenal, though, were undeterred, with Ballard’s goal meaning that they are through to the last eight, where they will take on Colchester United or Reading away.
Ampadu named the same squad that saw off Liverpool, with Reiss Nelson training with the first-team and Joseph Olowu still out injured.
Subs: Benson (for M. Smith), Saka (for Coyle). Not used: Okonkwo, Omole, Balogun.
Middlesbrough started well, with Nathan Guru coming close to scoring, but some expert defending from Arsenal kept him at bay.
Arsenal goalkeeper Joao Virginia then made an impressive stop to thwart O’Neill and Billal Brahimi as Middlesbrough increased the pressure.
However, it was Arsenal who took the lead as Smith Rowe, who has caught the eye for the U23s of late, finished adroitly.
Middlesbrough looked to respond and they caused some difficulty for Arsenal, but Smith Rowe was still providing a significant threat at the other end and came close to doubling his tally.
Arsenal continued to put Middlesbrough under pressure and were rewarded for their persistence, with John-Jules tucking the ball home after Matt Smith’s initial effort was blocked.
In an entertaining encounter, Middlesbrough looked to quickly reduce the deficit and they very nearly did so through Stephen Wearne, who had an effort cleared off the line.
Virginia then made an excellent stop to keep out Kian Spence’s effort but he was unable to stop O’Neill from scoring from close range a few minutes later.
Middlesbrough managed to claw themselves level before half time as Hood managed to scramble the ball over the line.
Arsenal were livid at surrendering their lead but they emerged for the second half with renewed determination to persevere.
Soon enough they were back in front as Ballard scored following yet more good work from Smith Rowe.
Middlesbrough refused to give in and Virginia made some further good stops, but Arsenal still posed an attacking threat of their own, with Smith Rowe a constant danger.
Xavier Amaechi and John-Jules had further efforts and, although they had to survive a scare when O’Neill sent a free-kick narrowly wide late on, Arsenal managed to secure victory.