Drama as Arsenal U23s draw 2-2 with Manchester United U23s – as late penalty miss denies Gunners victory
PUBLISHED: 21:09 08 May 2017 | UPDATED: 21:09 08 May 2017
Arsenal’s gilded under-23s finished their Premier League 2 campaign against Manchester United at Emirates Stadium tonight with an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Steve Gatting’s side – who had already secured a fourth-placed finish, started eight points behind Liverpool and two points ahead of Chelsea before kick off.
They were to add another point at the end of this absorbing game – but could be frustrated they did not pick up all three after the young Guns went 2-0 up in the space of 180 seconds – mirroring yesterday’s performance from the senior side.
Goals from Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah put Gatting’s side 2-0 up before a strong second half performance from Nicky Butt’s young tyros pulled it back to 2-2 – with Arsenal’s Donyell Maylen missing a penalty with his team 2-1 up.
Despite the draw it has been a creditable showing from the promising youngsters this term, winning ten times from 21 games before this evening’s fixture, drawing twice and losing nine times.
United for their part visited North London having won just five of their 20 fixtures this year meaning they sat just three points above rock-bottom Reading in the table.
Their results mean they can finish no lower than 10th place, but could have risen as high as sixth if they won their last two fixtures - starting with tonight at the Emirates.
Joshua Bohui pulled ball back from the byline to feed Josh Harrop who fired at goal, only to see Matt Macey palm away for a corner which came to nothing.
The 18-year-old Bohui looked a lively prospect and it was easy to see why there’s a three way tussle from England, France and the Ivory Coast to get him to play for them at international level.
It was a second game in two days for United starlet Scott McTominay – who made his Premier League debut as an 84th minute substitute for Juan Mata during Jose Mourinho side’s 2-0 defeat.
On 24 minutes 19-year-old attacking midfielder Savvas Mourgos should have put Arsenal ahead when well placed, but he pulled his shot across Kieran O’Hara’s goal and the score remained goalless.
Despite his miss his languid style allied with technical ability to make purists purr – not to mention a nifty turn of pace – it was easy to see why the club had rewarded his progress for the U18s this term with a professional contract.
Savvas could have scored moments later after finding enough space to shoot just outside the six yard box but Cameron Borthwick-Jackson showed the anticipation expected of a defender who has made 10 senior starts for the senior team, as he made an excellent block.
Yet moments later Arsenal went 1-0 up after good work from January signing Cohen Bramall – Arsene Wenger’s £40,000 from the Northern Premier League.
The promising but raw left-back powered past his man to deliver an inch perfect cross for Reiss Nelson to slot home ten minutes before half time.
Three minutes later the Arsenal U23s went two ahead – mirroring yesterday’s goalscoring after the first team scored two goals in 180 seconds through Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck.
The names may be less heralded tonight at this level but make no mistake but forward Eddie Nketiah is a name to remember.
With 23 goals for the club including his seventh for the U23s already this term his 24th was a sight to behold as fired in from the edge of the box to make it 2-0.
Make no mistake this lad – who incredibly is just 17 is one to watch.
As referee Dean Treleaven blew for half time – leaving the young crowd buzzing through what they had just witnessed it was fitting the PA played the Kinks ‘You Really Got Me’.
Nelson and Nketiah were replaced during the break for Joe Willock – fresh from scoring a brace for Arsenal U18s against United’s U18s last week – and Joseph Oluwu.
As neither player appeared to be labouring, it may have been a case of both highly rated players satisfying manager Steve Gatting – as well as Wenger’s scouts.
A superbly timed tackle from captain Ben Sheaf midway through the second half on Bohui was as satisfying to watch as it was perfectly executed. Sheaf who joined the club from West Ham in 2014 has flourished since switching to centre half from midfield, and is another one to watch.
The 2,573 crowd who braved the chilly North London night saw a superb tip over from Arsenal U23s keeper Matt Macey from Matthew Olosunde’s powerful header - but he had no chance with Harrop’s low shot moments later as United made it 2-1.
There was drama here as sub Donyell Malen who was felled for a penalty by Tyrell Warren had his spot kick saved by United keeper O’Hara as the score remained 2-1 with 15 minutes left.
It was justice of sorts for United as it appeared Warren’s challenge was outside the area.
Four minutes later there was hheartbreak for Chiori Johnson as he deflected a fierce cross-cum shot from the lively Harrop past Macey and into net as United drew level at 2-2.
It was harsh on the Arsenal youngster but reward for United’s attacking intent under manager Nicky Butt’s tutelage
With moments remaining Bohui found himself in acres of space bearing down on goal but his first touch was poor and he was marshalled into a cul-de-sac by Sheaf – with the officials then turning down an optimistic appeal for a penalty as he went down easily under little influence from the assembled Arsenal defenders – earning the high-pitched ire of the youngsters watching at the Emirates.
As referee Treleaven blew for the final whistle after an attacking game both teams could feel frustrated at the result, if not the whole-hearted commitment from all - and hugely impressive performances from many.
Whether they make a career at these two global giants is another matter entirely – but one thing is for certain – every player out there tonight if they keep up their progress and avoid injuries will have a career as a professional football long after this game is forgotten.
Macey, Jenkinson, Bramall, Maitland-Niles, Johnson, Sheaf (c), Mourgos (Dragomir), Kamara, Nketieh (Oluwu), Nelson (Willock, J), Willock, C
O’Hara, Olosunde, Mitchell, Warren, Borthwick-Jackson, Scott, Harrop, Willock, Bohui, McTominay (Dearnley), Gribbin (Hamilton)