FA Youth Cup fifth round
Arsenal 1 (Saka 31) West Bromwich Albion 2 (Soule 7, Azaz 68)
Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup on Saturday as they were defeated by a spirited West Bromwich Albion side despite Bukayo Saka’s strike.
Coach Ken Gillard made two changes from the team that overcame Tottenham Hotspur in the previous round, with Joel Lopez surprisingly replacing Vontae Daley-Campbell and James Olayinka coming in for the injured Jordan McEneff.
Striker Tyreece John-Jules recovered from injury to make the bench.
Arsenal: Okonkwo; Swanson, McGuinness, Ogungbo, Lopez (Greenwood, 86); M. Smith, Olayinka (John-Jules, 76); Amaechi, Cottrell, Saka; Balogun. Subs not used: T. Smith, Daley-Campbell, Coyle.
Arsenal sought to start brightly but it was actually the visitors who commenced the game stronger, with Jamie Soule pushing forwards and finding Rayhaan Tulloch, who shot wide.
Just two minutes later West Brom were in front and it was Soule who scored it as he slotted the ball beyond the reach of Arthur Okonkwo.
The young Gunners tried their utmost to respond, with Folarin Balogun having an effort blocked before Xavier Amaechi came close to scoring.
Bukayo Saka then struck the crossbar and then Balogun shot wide as Arsenal carved out further opportunities.
Eventually they did manage to equalise, and it was Saka who scored it as he scored from close range.
It was 1-1 at half-time and in the early stages of the second half Saka continued to grow in influence as he had further opportunities to score.
West Brom were undettered, however, and regained the lead in the 68th minute courtesy of Finn Azaz.
Arsenal turned to their bench in search of inspiration, with Tyreece John-Jules making his return from injury as he replaced James Olayinka.
Saka continued to see much of the ball but the winger perhaps should have scored when well placed.
Arsenal threw on another attacker, with Sam Greenwood, just back from international duty, coming on for Joel Lopez.
Balogun was presented with a chance to force extra-time but he headed wide in the closing stages and, after four minutes of stoppage time, Arsenal were knocked out.
Despite reaching the final of this prestigious competition last season, Arsenal have failed to progress beyond the fifth round on this occasion and lots of these players, including Amaechi and John-Jules, won’t get to play in the Youth Cup again.
Intriguingly, though, Saka will still be eligible next campaign as Arsenal look to make up for this disappointment.