Report – Balogun strikes but Arsenal are beaten on penalties by Plymouth in Papa John’s Trophy

Papa John’s Trophy

Plymouth Argyle 1 (Agard 24) Arsenal U21s 1 (Balogun 56) (Plymouth win 5-4 on pens)

Arsenal U21s still have a chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the Papa John’s Trophy after earning a point away to Plymouth Argyle tonight.

The young Gunners were beaten on penalties, with Brooke Norton-Cuffy and James Olayinka having their spot-kicks saved, which meant that Kevin Betsy’s side missed out on a bonus point.

However, Folarin Balogun’s equaliser, which came after Arsenal academy product Kieran Agard had given Plymouth the lead, means that Arsenal will go through if Newport County lose to Swindon Town next week.

Arsenal were without Salah-Eddine, Mazeed Ogungbo and Zane Monlouis due to injuries, but Ryan Alebiosu and James Olayinka came back into the side, with Kido Taylor-Hart also starting.

A host of U18 players were named on the bench, including Zach Awe and Khayon Edwards.

A. Okonkwo

Norton Cuffy-Rekik-Swanson

Alebiosu-Akinola-Olayinka-Lopez

Taylor Hart-Biereth-Balogun

Subs: Foran (for Alebiosu, 51), Walters (for Rekik, 74), Ideho (for Lopez, 88). Not used: Ejeheri, Butler-Oyedeji, Henry-Francis, Edwards.

Plymouth started in the ascendancy, with Ryan Law having an effort saved by Arthur Okonkwo.

Agard, who was at Arsenal’s academy between 1999 and 2005, then went for goal from 45 yards out after spotting Okonwko off his line, but his attempt went over the crossbar.

Arsenal then started to pose a threat themselves, with Mika Biereth’s header hitting the crossbar.

Alebiosu, whose impact going forward has improved considerably in recent seasons, got into a dangerous position after bursting down the right flank but his subsequent effort was saved.

Will Jenkins-Davies saw an effort deflected wide, with Arsenal responding with attempts from Taylor-Hart and Olayinka, but neither could find the target.

After a period of pressure, Plymouth took the lead in the 24th minute, with Agard scoring against his former club after latching onto a cross.

Agard looked to reach a similar delivery shortly afterwards but on this occasion Okonkwo was alert to claim the ball.

Biereth then found the net for Arsenal, only for his effort to be ruled out for offside.

Jordan Houghton shot just wide for Plymouth from distance, with Balogun then having an attempt saved at the other end.

Plymouth went into the break in the lead but Arsenal emerged for the second half determined to equalise.

They came close to doing so through Balogun, who saw a shot saved.

Taylor Foran was brought on for Alebiosu in the early stages of the second period and then Balogun made it 1-1.

The striker finished well from a difficult angle having taken the ball around goalkeeper Callum Burton.

The game then sparked into life with Agard having a penalty claim turned down before Balogun was denied again.

Omar Rekik was booked for a foul and Biereth had to make an important defensive contribution to cut out the danger.

Rekik then required treatment following a foul, with the Tunisian defender eventually being substituted as Reuell Walters replaced him.

Okonkwo reacted well to keep out a long-range effort from Macaulay Gillesphey.

Plymouth had an opportunity to restore their lead with five minutes left but Rhys Shirley was just unable to latch onto Agard’s cross.

Deep into stoppage time Balogun tried his luck yet again but he couldn’t score and the game finished 1-1 with a penalty shootout following.

Balogun put Arsenal ahead in the shootout and Gillesphey then scored for Plymouth.

Biereth restored Arsenal’s advantage and Finley Craske then netted for the hosts.

Zak Swanson made no mistake for the Gunners and Brandon Pursall did likewise for Plymouth.

Arsenal’s Norton-Cuffy was the first player to miss and Agard then slotted home.

Taylor-Hart kept Arsenal’s hopes alive and then Jenkins-Davies looked to win the shootout for Plymouth but Okonkwo did well to save his penalty.

Olayinka then stepped up for Arsenal but his attempt was saved and Shirley took advantage by dispatching his penalty to ensure that Plymouth won the shootout and got a bonus point.

Arsenal, meanwhile, know that their fate is out of their hands and will have to hope that Swindon win next week.

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