U21 Premier League Cup
Arsenal 2 (Ideho 18, Cedric 34) Swansea City 1 (Joshua Thomas 13)
By Jeorge Bird @ LV Bet Stadium Meadow Park
Arsenal U21s’ Premier League Cup campaign got off to a winning start against Swansea City, with three first-team players making a contribution.
Emile Smith Rowe and Fabio Vieira played the first 45 minutes, with the latter making his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt, while Cedric captained the side and scored what proved to be the decisive goal.
Swansea had taken the lead through Joshua Thomas but Joel Ideho levelled for Arsenal and after a fine free-kick from Cedric the visitors were reduced to ten men just before half time as Joe Thomas was sent off for a challenge on Lino Sousa.
Arsenal often use this competition to rotate their U21 squad and that was the case again on this occasion, with Zach Awe, Lino Sousa and Miguel Azeez the only players to start both this game and the one against West Ham United last week.
James Hillson was given a runout in goal, and there were also opportunities for Taylor Foran, Nathan Butler-Oyedeji and Joel Ideho, while U18s star Amario Cozier-Duberry started.
Former Arsenal goalkeeper Remy Mitchell was named on the bench for Swansea.
Smith Rowe-Cozier Duberry
Subs: Bandeira (for Vieira, 46), Cirjan (for Smith Rowe, 46), Jeffcott (for Sousa, 68), Akinola (for Azeez, 79). Not used: T. Smith.
In wet conditions Arsenal made an encouraging start with Vieira, who was deployed on the right flank, linking up well with Smith Rowe.
Ideho, who was eager to make an impact, had Arsenal’s first opportunity as he shot over, and Vieira then played an excellent pass into the path of Smith Rowe, whose cross was cut out. Butler-Oyedeji and Foran subsequently came close to scoring.
Despite that early pressure, it was Swansea who took the lead through Joshua Thomas in the 13th minute. Arsenal goalkeeper Hillson was adamant that the goal shouldn’t have counted due to a handball but it was allowed to stand.
It didn’t take long for Arsenal to equalise and Ideho was the goalscorer, with the winger producing a neat finish after being found by Sousa.
Azeez then exchanged passes with Butler-Oyedeji before having a shot saved. The pair have a very good understanding having played together at younger age levels.
Smith Rowe, Sousa and Vieira all had opportunities, and then Arsenal took the lead as Cedric scored an excellent free-kick.
Matters quickly went from bad to worse for Swansea as Joe Thomas was sent off for a foul on Sousa.
Smith Rowe and Vieira both went off at half time as planned, with Catalin Cirjan and Mauro Bandeira entering the fray.
Cirjan, who is determined to make up for lost time following his injury, played a neat ball into the path of Butler-Oyedeji, who went down in the penalty area but the flag was raised.
Ideho and Cirjan had chances, with Henry Jeffcott then coming on for his first appearance of the season as he replaced Sousa.
Arsenal lacked a bit of fluency in the second half after the withdrawals of Smith Rowe and Vieira, and they were reliant on Zach Awe to make an excellent challenge to cut out the danger.
However, the young Gunners managed to hold on to take all three points to start what they hope will be a lengthy and successful Premier League Cup campaign.
Smith Rowe, who was making his first appearance at this level for almost two years, gave a good account of himself and frequently interchanged positions with Vieira.
Vieira had some encouraging moments and possesses excellent close control. The end product wasn’t quite there on this occasion but will hopefully come with time.
Cedric, the oldest player at the club at 30 years of age, put his experience to good use and deserves credit for helping to guide the youngsters through the game. He also provided support for his compatriot Vieira in the first half as they were both operating on the right flank.
With regards to academy players, Azeez is continuing to grow in the deep-lying midfield position and he was able to dictate play at times.
Cozier-Duberry was lively both in central midfield in the first half and as a winger in the second period.
Ideho, meanwhile, put in a lot of effort and was rewarded with a goal.
Arsenal’s focus will now return to league action as they take on Chelsea, and potentially Omari Hutchinson, on Saturday.