(Manchester Utd win 4-3 on aggregate after extra time)
By Adam Clark at Old Trafford
The Theatre of Dreams? Arsenal's were shattered in the most dramatic of fashions at Old Trafford on Monday.
One goal up from the first leg, the young Gunners looked within touching distance of the Final when they took the lead with a goal made and scored by Kieran Gibbs four minutes after the break.
But United rallied and restored parity on the night before levelling the tie in the third minute of added time.
Rhys Murphy looked to have salvaged Arsenal's hopes when he lobbed home in extra time but United again pulled level before Danny Welbeck broke Arsenal's hearts with a header four minutes from the end.
Academy coach Steve Bould made just one change from the first leg with Rene Steer coming in at left back for the suspended Armand Traore.
Midfielder Fran Merida was instrumental in the opening stages as Arsenal quickly set about their game. First he flashed over a free-kick with three minutes gone. Four minutes later his ball found Simpson who was only denied by a fine sliding tackle from James Chester.
The Gunners were keeping possession well and looked the more comfortable side. And on nine minutes Merida was involved yet again as Bould's side came close to breaking the deadlock. The Spaniard found Randall who set himself for a shot 25-yards from goal. Goalkeeper Ben Amos could only parry the shot and although Simpson reacted quickest he skewed his effort wide.
In making the save from Randall, Amos was left clutching his wrist and was replaced by Ron-Robert Zieler. It was unfortunate for the youngster in front of a 8,058 home crowd.
More Merida trickery, this time a skilful two-footed shimmy on 23 minutes allowed him to unlock United defence and put Simpson through. This time the striker tried to bend a first-time shot which Zieler saved comfortably.
While keeper Lee Butcher remained untested at one end Arsenal certainly sensed a breakthrough at the other. Rodgers so nearly made it on 27 minutes but his looped header was cleared from under the crossbar by Danny Drinkwater.
Seven minutes before the break though a Drinkwater corner was flicked on and Rodgers gained revenge by toeing off the line.
Arsenal packed their defence when necessary and restricted United to a long-range effort from Craig Cathcart that fizzed well wide.
Then on the stroke of half time Simpson found Barazite who got to the by-line before cutting out two United defenders with a pull-back for James Dunne. The winger threw himself into a shot but Zieler reacted sharply to turn it away.
Arsenal should have come out for the second half ahead and, in the event, they took just four minutes to rectify that. Gibbs was instrumental in the build-up, skilfully skipping two challenges to find Steer in acres of space down the left. The defender's cross beat everybody but Barazite turned it across the face of goal, leaving Gibbs, who had made up the 25 yards, the task of edging the ball over the line.
United now needed to score twice to force extra time but Arsenal had an obvious stranglehold on the game. And when United did create two chances in quick succession on the hour mark both Welbeck and Fagan failed to find the target.
But on 72 minutes a Rodgers handball gave United a free-kick on the edge of the box. Sam Hewson drilled it through the crowd and although Butcher pushed it away Febian Brandy's touch allowed Fagan to steer home.
Now United sensed a comeback. Daniel Galbraith put Hewson through on 77 minutes but Butcher denied the midfielder with a fantastic save.
Randall then headed over from a Merida corner but United were as relentless as Arsenal were nervy. It was understandable on such a big occasion but for the most part Bould's side thwarted their hosts.
Rodgers, on a yellow card, made an expertly timed sliding challenge in the box to disposes Brandy and as United threw everyone forward Cathcart glanced a header wide.
Then the referee signalled four minutes of added time and three minutes in United struck a hammerblow. A ball into the box ricocheted out as far as Antonio Bryan and the midfielder, unfazed by the moment, placed an unstoppable shot low to Butcher's right.
Extra time and potentially penalties would now decide Arsenal's fate.
They looked eager to make amends when substitute Henri Lansbury fired wide just moments after the restart. But United had the momentum and created constant pressure. And yet it was Arsenal who got themselves back ahead against the run of play. Abu Ogogo put Murphy through on 104 minutes and the striker bided his time to calmly lift the ball over the advancing Zieler.
Arsenal's battling legs looked tired though and the hosts pulled level with 12 minutes remaining. The unfortunate Rodgers could only flick the ball into the path of Hewson and the midfielder squared for Brandy to slide in.
There was still time for a devastating final twist to the tale. With four minutes remaining Galbraith delivered a perfect cross from the left and Welbeck rose to head beyond the despairing Butcher. Arsenal's hopes were shattered. It was one blow too many. The night belonged to United.
The teams emerge at Old Trafford
Randall jumps with Fagan
Simpson takes on Eckersley
Gibbs scores from close range
Kieren celebrates his goal
Murphy scores in extra time
Rhys Murphy turns to celebrate
Murphy silences the home fans
- To buy official Arsenal pictures visit www.ArsenalPics.com.
- Rodgers Yellow Card
- Randall Yellow Card
- Barazite 78
- Dunne 73
- Merida 93 Yellow Card
- Lansbury 73
- Fonte 93
- Murphy 78