Report – Biereth scores brace but Arsenal U23s suffer late frustration against Manchester City

Premier League 2

Arsenal 3 (Sousa 11, Biereth 53, 78 (pen.)) Manchester City 3 (Delap 18, 90, McAtee 90)

By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium

Arsenal U23s saw their faint title hopes extinguished after they surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 against Manchester City at Emirates Stadium.

In an enthralling contest between two teams with an array of creative and attacking talents, Arsenal took the lead through Lino Sousa before the hugely impressive Liam Delap levelled for City.

A brace from Mika Biereth put Arsenal back in the ascendancy but Delap scored with a fine strike, with James McAtee then getting the equaliser in the fourth minute of added time, with City continuing their own title charge.

Arsenal were without Zak Swanson, Mazeed Ogungbo and Marcelo Flores, who were all on the bench for the first-team against Crystal Palace.

James Olayinka and Salah-Eddine were also missing but Zane Monlouis made his first appearance at this level since November following his return from injury. Omari Hutchinson was deployed alongside captain Biereth up front. Omar Rekik was named aiming the substitutes as he made his comeback, whilst there was a first callup at this level for midfielder Mathaeus Roberts, who has impressed for the U18s recently.

Graczyk

Walters-Kirk-Dinzeyi-Monlouis-Sousa

Henrys Francis-Azeez-Patino

Hutchinson-Biereth

Subs: Ideho (for Sousa, 79), Butler-Oyedeji (for Hutchinson, 86), Rekik (for Patino, 87). Not used: Ejeheri, Roberts.

It was quite an uneventful start to the game in terms of clear-cut chances, but eventually Hubert Graczyk was called into action as he had to make a save.

City had looked the stronger side in the early stages but it was Arsenal who took the lead after 11 minutes with an effort from Lino Sousa from the edge of the area deceiving Cieran Slicker.

There may well have been an element of fortune to Sousa’s effort but this is a player who hasn’t wasted any time in making an impact at this level.

Given City’s quality it appeared inevitable that they would respond quickly and that was exactly what occurred, with Delap slotting the ball home after a through ball from Kwaku Oduroh caught out the Arsenal defence.

Jonathan Dinzeyi, who was making just his second appearance since returning from loan, had to make several important interventions in the first half.

City continued to dominate possession, with Romeo Lavia and Darko Gyabi to the fore. The latter tested Graczyk with a shot and the Arsenal goalkeeper later had to deny Oscar Bobb.

The first half ended 1-1 but in truth City had controlled much of the game, with Arsenal struggling to create many clear-cut chances.

Hutchinson had been someway short of his usual lofty standards in the first half but he emerged for the second period with renewed vigour and made a significant impact.

After Delap found the side-netting, Arsenal then went in front, with Hutchinson the architect of the goal as his free-kick fell to Alex Kirk, who worked the ball on to Biereth, with the striker scoring.

By this point Arsenal were full of confidence, with Azeez and Patino dominating the midfield, especially after Gyabi was substituted.

Azeez struck the post with a free-kick and then at the other end Graczyk made another stop.

Graczyk has excelled in recent games and he had much work to do here against a very strong City side.

Delap shot wide for City and then Arsenal were awarded a penalty after Reuell Walters’ clever pass unlocked the defence and Biereth was fouled.

Biereth stepped up to take the spot-kick himself and converted it to make it 3-1.

Arsenal knew that they had to win to stand any chance of securing the title, and at this point it looked as though they would prevail.

Lino Sousa was replaced by Joel Ideho, and Hutchinson then had an effort cleared off the line.

That proved to be Hutchinson’s last action as Butler-Oyedeji entered the fray in place of him.

Delap missed an inviting chance for City and then Arsenal made their final change with Rekik replacing Patino.

Five minutes were added on and City refused to give up in the closing stages.

In the third minute of added time they reduced the deficit with Delap scoring with a superb, powerful effort.

Then came the moment that caused agony for Arsenal, with McAtee guiding the ball beyond the reach of Graczyk to equalise for City.

There was still time for further drama, with Graczyk having to make another save and Biereth then missing a golden opportunity from close range following a cross from Butler-Oyedeji.

The title never appeared to be a realistic proposition for Arsenal this season but it was still frustrating to drop points in this fashion.

Indeed, this is the third game in succession in which Arsenal U23s have squandered a lead to end up drawing, which is something that will concern coach Kevin Betsy.

There were still some positives to take from this game, especially with regards to the performance for much of the second half.

Sousa looks like a senior player in the making given his composure in possession, while his fellow wing-back Walters is also progressing well.

Patino, Azeez and Henry-Francis worked well as a trio in the second half, while Hutchinson stepped up his game and Biereth also continued to work arduously as he attempted to find openings. In goal, Graczyk made a string of saves but eventually City managed to take a point.

The substitutions, especially the introduction of Rekik in midfield, didn’t really help Arsenal’s momentum.

Overall, it was a night that ended in hugely frustrating fashion for Arsenal, but there are certainly some very good prospects in this U23s squad.

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