(Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties)
By Nick Teale
Arsenal are through to the Fourth Round of the FA Youth Cup after a dramatic penalty-shootout victory against Crewe Alexandra at Barnet on Wednesday night.
The Gunners trailed three times in the game, which was forced into extra time, and they were even behind for most of the shootout, which they eventually won after Ignasi Miquel successfully converted his sudden-death effort.
It was an incredible way for the holders to start the defence of their crown.
Before kick-off, manager Steve Bould handed the captain's armband to left-back Cedric Evina. Sead Hajrovic, Daniel Boateng and Ignasi Miquel joined him in defence with James Dunn in goal.
Arsenal's first chance came nine minutes in when Afobe met Evina's low cross, only to see his shot go wide.
With 20 minutes on the clock Nick Powell burst into the Gunners' box after a neat one-two with Michael Koral. Powell unleashed his shot 10 yards from goal but James Dunn pulled off a fine save to thwart an effort that looked destined for the top corner.
Almost immediately after Crewe's chance, Arsenal had two efforts headed off the line in as many minutes.
First Harry Davis cleared Freeman's cross to deny Afobe a simple nod into the net and then Miquel saw his header hacked away at the back post after Aneke flicked on Deacon's corner from the left.
Then, midway through the first-half, the deadlock was broken.
Crewe left-back Oliver Tutron sprinted forward and went down under Evina's challenge as he entered the area. The referee pointed to the spot and up stepped Joe O'Sullivan to fire the ball into Dunn's bottom right corner. The keeper had dived the right way but the penalty was too well-placed for him to reach.
However, just four minutes later, Aneke headed home from Deacon's corner to draw the holders level. Then, in first-half stoppage time, Arsenal almost took the lead. Henderson fed Afobe into the box but the striker's effort hit the post before being cleared by Crewe.
Six minutes into the second half the visitor's lead was restored. Michael Koral forced Dunn into a good save from close range but the resulting corner was headed in by Harry Davis after O'Sullivan had delivered from the left.
In response, Aneke and Frimpong both had efforts from 20 yards. The first was drilled wide and the second was fired straight at Daniel Platt in the Crewe goal.
Arsenal came close to finding their second equaliser with nine minutes remaining when Henderson's free-kick smashed against the wall but ricocheted with pace towards goal, forcing Platt into a top-class save as he stretched low to his right.
That might have had the Gunners thinking this was not to be their night. But just three minutes later they finally got the second goal that they deserved.
Substitute Oguzhan Ozyakup's corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble and when the ball fell to Freeman, he turned to smashed the ball into the back of the net, sending the game to extra-time.
Before the additional 30 minutes arrived Freeman had two further opportunities. First he saw a rifled 30-yard effort tipped acrobatically over the bar by Platt and then the striker fired across goal from the left, only to see his shot drift wide and the game head beyond 90 minutes.
Eight minutes into extra-time another Arsenal corner sparked the game's second goalmouth scramble and Platt was forced to smoother the ball as it attempted to creep over the goal-line.
Shortly after the extra-time interval Crewe regained the lead. The ball was delivered from the halfway line to Davis. He got to the byline and delivered a cross which, to his delight, took a heavy deflection off Miquel and hit the back of the net.
But the holders' attempt to retain their trophy wasn't over yet. In the 111th minute Ozyakup delivered another corner from the left. Aneke rose well and made a clean connection to draw Arsenal level for the third time in the match, sending the game to penalties.
Crewe's Jason Oswell was first up and he successfully put his side ahead in the shoot-out before Ozyakup hit the bar with Arsenal's first effort. Each side was succesful with their following three efforts however, Alex's fifth penalty, taken by Andy White, was saved by Dunn and sudden death followed.
But when Cheyenne Dunkley missed his attempt from 12 yards Miquel took advantage to send Arsenal through to the Fourth Round with a 5-4 penalty win.
A brave, valiant and determined Arsenal side eventually progressed and will meet Ipswich Town at Underhill in the next round.
Jason Oswell - SCORED
Oguzhan Ozyakup - MISSED
Harry Davis - SCORED
Luke Freeman - SCORED
Max Clayton - SCORED
Cedric Evina - SCORED
Sean Cooke - SCORED
Nico Yennaris - SCORED
Andy White - SAVED
Benik Afobe - SCORED
Cheyenne Dunkley - SAVED
Ignasi Miquel - SCORED
Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties.
- Evina (C)
- Freeman Goal!
- O'Sullivan Goal!
- Davis (C) Goal!