By Rob Kelly at Stadio Guiseppe Sinigallia, Lake Como
Arsenal were beaten 3-1 by Sporting Lisbon in the NextGen Series third-place play-off on Sunday afternoon.
In a low-key affair at Lake Como, Thomas Eisfeld gave Terry Burton’s side the lead after pouncing on a poor backpass but Sporting hit back before half-time through Wilson Manafa.
The Portuguese side extended their advantage after the restart courtesy of Ruben Semedo’s penalty and Ricardo Esgaio’s powerful strike.
It made for a disappointing end to a highly-encouraging European campaign for the Club’s rising stars. Yet they will be all the better for their experiences in the competition.
Burton made four changes to his side for this game, with Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill handed his first start in the competition in place of Martin Angha at left back. Alfred Mugabo, Zak Ansah and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were also included as the Gunners looked to end their European adventure on a high.
Sporting had the lion’s share of possession in the opening exchanges, but the first chance of note came from Arsenal as Chuba Akpom was played in by Maitland-Niles’ slide-rule pass. The England Under-19 international held off the covering defender but could not beat the onrushing Mickael Meira, who palmed the ball to safety.
Eisfeld tested Meira again seconds later with a low drive from the edge of the area as the Gunners started to raise the tempo. But Lisbon have shown themselves to be a dangerous outfit throughout this competition, and came close opening the scoring through Diego Rubio, who fired just wide from 10 yards.
Arsenal eventually broke the deadlock in the 28th minute - but it came with a major slice of good fortune. Sporting right back Mauro Riquicho played a backpass straight to Eisfeld who was lurking in the area, and the German kept his cool to slot the ball beyond Meira.
The Portuguese side levelled matters soon afterwards though, when Wilson Manafa latched on to a loose ball in the area and drove it past Deyan Iliev from close range.
Sporting made a bright start to the second half and came close to snatching the lead when Wallyson Mallmann was played through on goal, but he fired wide. But they did not have long to wait as Semedo slotted home a penalty after Mugabo was adjudged to have brought down Luka Stojanovic in the area.
Iliev produced a superb double save to deny Rubio and then Esgaio as the Portuguese tried to turn the screw. The Arsenal goalkeeper pulled off another fine stop just after the hour mark to deny Rubio, but could do nothing in the 72nd minute as Esgaio slammed in a third for Sporting.
That was enough to consign the Gunners to defeat, but they should still take heart from a productive campaign that has seen them establish themselves as one of the best sides in Europe.
- Bellerin 54
- Eisfeld Goal!
- Yennaris (C) 54
- Akpom 67
- Maitland-Niles 73
- Iwobi 73
- Jebb 54
- Olsson 54
- Ebecilio 67
- Meira 89
- Riquicho 81
- Semedo Goal!
- Manafa Goal!
- Esgaio Goal!
- Stojanovic 81 Yellow Card
- Rubio 89
- Edelino 89
- Rosa 81
- Prodence 81
- Oliveira 89