- Wojciech Szczesny
- Abu Ogogo
- Rene Steer
- Gavin Hoyte
- Paul Rodgers
- Nacer Barazite
- Vincent van den Berg 82
- Kieran Gibbs
- Mark Randall
- James Dunne
- Rui Fonte
- Giorgos Efrem 77
- Jay Simpson
FA Premier Academy League
Under-18s Play-off Semi-Final
Arsenal Training Centre. Tue, May 15, 2007
Leicester City Under-18s
By Adam Clark
Arsenal Under-18s suffered their second Semi-Final defeat this season as Leicester edged them out in the Academy League play-offs at the training ground on Tuesday.
Steve Bould's side just missed out on a place in the FA Youth Cup Final last month and were thwarted this time by a purposeful Foxes side.
Victory would have set up a Final showdown with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday but goals either side of the break from Kieran Gibbs and Jay Simpson proved in vain.
Bould's starting line up boasted four players who have featured on the bench for Arsène Wenger's first team this season. But the Academy coach also had key players missing following last week's European Under-17s championship. Midfielder Henri Lansbury picked up an injury in England's Semi-Final win over France while Spaniard Fran Merida and England striker Rhys Murphy, who both featured in Sunday's Final, did not start. The latter was rested completely.
Despite their absentees the young Gunners got off to a good start with Nacer Barazite, fresh from representing the Netherlands, going close.
But Leicester quickly set about dictating play and took the lead just 10 minutes in. Gavin Hoyte, another of England's charges, looked to have cleared any danger with a defensive header but found Billy McKay, who in turn found the bottom corner.
Arsenal's response was immediate. Kieran Gibbs received the ball in the box and bided his time before squeezing a shot between keeper Carl Pentley and his near post. Yet the goal didn't serve to give the Gunners momentum and Leicester looked hungry to regain their advantage.
Polish stopper Wojciech Szczesny twice saved from Eric Odihombe and Andy King while McKay passed up an opportunity to double his tally.
Hoyte latched on to a Simpson free-kick but could only guide his effort at Pentley while Simpson himself fired wide after a slip from Scott Lycett gave him his first clear sight of goal.
Odihombe and King continued to cause problems and each registered another effort on goal before the break. Randall also fizzed a shot inches over Pentley's bar following a neat lay-off from the industrious Gibbs.
Randall then turned provider with an incisive through-ball which put Simpson one on one. Unfortunately for the striker, Leicester's defenders recovered quickly and forced him to hurry his shot. The 18-year-old again stole a march on his marker on 53 minutes but this time he fluffed his attempted lob as the keeper advanced.
Barazite and Simpson had further chances saved by the impressive Pentley and agonisingly saw Leicester regain the lead on 64 minutes. Odihombe played a neat one-two, affording himself space to calmly slot the ball under Szczesny.
And 16 minutes later the challenge before Arsenal increased further still. McKay showed quick feet to find room in the box before placing a shot beyond the reach of the 17-year-old goalkeeper.
The young Gunners handed themselves a lifeline with five minutes remaining as Gibbs provided for Simpson to hook in a reply. It ensured a nail-biting climax and Gibbs went close in the dying seconds only to see his goal-bound shot deflected over the crossbar.