Dallas Cup Final
Tigres 1 Arsenal 0
Arsenal’s dreams of winning the prestigious Dallas Cup ended at the final hurdle as they were beaten 1-0 by an impressive Tigres side in the final of the competition.
The young Gunners overcame Manchester United on penalties to reach this stage but there weren’t any similar heroics on this occasion as they fell behind to a first half strike and were unable to find an equaliser, even though they did come extremely close when substitute Mark McGuinness hit the post late on.
Coach Kwame Ampadu made X alterations to the side that beat United, with Matt Smith and James Olayinka coming in for Tobi Omole and Zak Swanson.
Bukayo Saka, the hero in the semi-final, was again named amongst the substitutes, while Bayli Spencer-Adams and Matthew Dennis dropped out of the squad.
Subs: Saka (for Balogun), Swanson (for Burton), Clarke (for M. Smith), Beckford (for Daley-Campbell), McGuinness (for Ballard). Not used: Barden, Omole.
Arsenal struggled to muster much in the way of attacking momentum early on but Tigres, in contrast, started brightly and put Ampadu’s side under pressure with an effort that found the side netting.
Coyle attempted to respond at the other end but the England youth international’s cross was easily gathered and Arsenal were finding it rather difficult to get striker Folarin Balogun into the game.
Eventually Tigres took the lead as they capitalised upon some slack defending, with right-back Vontae Daley-Campbell especially culpable.
Tigres pushed forwards in search of further goals but Arsenal started to become more of a threat towards the end of the half, with captain Daniel Ballard having a header saved.
Arsenal continued to improve after the interval, with Olayinka’s teasing cross locating Balogun, who came close to scoring.
Tigres, who were backed by a sizeable amount of supporters, provided a reminder of their own qualities when Arthur Okonkwo was forced into a smart stop.
Then Saka entered the fray, which was entirely expected, but it was rather strange that Balogun was withdrawn, with Trae Coyle playing as a false nine when Arsenal were in need of a natural striker as they pushed for an equaliser.
Zak Swanson then entered the fray and he flashed a cross across the area but, unfortunately, there wasn’t a recipient.
Okonkwo had to make another stop at the other end but Arsenal were aware that time was running out and started to push an increasing amount of players forward, with Dominic Thompson sending an effort just wide.
Ballard had to be taken off due to a head injury and his replacement, McGuinness, almost proved to be an instant hero, but his effort after he was found from a corner agonisingly hit a post.
Three minutes were added on and Saka had an opportunity to send the game to extra-time but, unlike against United, he was unable to find the net and then the final whistle blew, sparking jubilant scenes amongst the Tigres players and dejected ones for the Arsenal youngsters.
Arsenal rode their luck at times in progressing to the final of this competition and their display in the first-half didn’t merit victory but they still deserve credit for getting this far.
This tournament has proved to be an excellent learning experience for these youngsters and some of them, Saka especially, have enhanced their reputations further as a result of it.
There are still several opportunities for glory for Arsenal’s youngsters this season – they can win the Premier League 2 title, the Premier League International Cup and the FA Youth Cup – but success in the Dallas Cup proved beyond them.