Arsenal Under-18s began the new season with a hard-earned 2-1 victory over Liverpool at London Colney on Friday.
Tom Dallison gave the hosts the lead after 20 minutes, stabbing home Jack Jebb’s inviting free-kick from close range.
In an even first half, the visitors drew level just before the break when Nathan Burke rifled a low 25-yard shot beyond Ryan Huddart.
Arsenal came out strongly after the break and found a winner after 68 minutes. Austin Lipman flicked on Jebb’s floated pass for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to slide the ball past Liverpool goalkeeper Ryan Crump.
The visitors poured men forward in a late attempt to salvage something from the game but, led by the commanding Dallison, the young Gunners held out comfortably.
Coach Carl Laraman handed a competitive debut to Dan Crowley, who signed from Aston Villa this summer.
He started the game as part of an attacking triumvirate alongside Maitland-Niles and Christopher Willock, with Alex Iwobi leading the line up front.
Jebb partnered Glen Kamara in central midfield with Arinse Uade, Dallison, Stefan O'Connor and Leander Siemann the back four in front of goalkeeper Huddart.
The game began high on enterprise but low on chances, with both sides trying to establish control.
Huddart raced from his goal to clear in front of Liverpool frontman Dan Smith while, at the other end, Willock's pace was causing problems for the visitors' defence.
Willock was Arsenal's main dangerman in the opening stages, so it came as no surprise that the 15-year-old was involved in the game's opening goal.
After the winger was chopped down just outside the box, Jebb's outswinging free-kick was met by the boot of Dallison, who escaped his marker to guide the ball into the bottom corner from 10 yards.
Conceding provoked a strong response from Liverpool.
Sheyi Ojo tested Huddart before full back Connor Randall cut in from the right and whistled a shot inches over the bar.
Then, five minutes before the break, Smith charged through and poked wide when one on one with Huddart.
But, just as it appeared as though Arsenal would take their slender lead into half-time, the visitors equalised when Burke's 25-yard shot beat Huddart and nestled in the bottom corner.
In truth, the sides deserved to go in level. Arsenal had been tidy in possession but lacked an incisive edge. And they lost Crowley to a knock two minutes before the break.
Laraman's side started the second period well. Iwobi volleyed over before Lipman shot off target after Siemann and Willock had combined superbly down the right-hand side.
The hosts were looking increasingly dangerous and retook the lead with just over 20 minutes to play when, after Lipman's touch had set him up, Maitland-Niles bravely knocked the ball beyond Crump and into the roof of the net.
Having gone in front again, Arsenal kept possession diligently. When the visitors did get on the ball, they could not get through a stubborn and organised defence that was clearly not interested in relinquishing the lead again.
In the end, Laraman's side had just about deserved victory.
- Dallison Goal!
- Kamara 72
- Maitland-Niles Goal!
- Dan Crowley 76
- Willock 82
- Dobson 72
- Smith 82
- Lipman 43 Yellow Card
- Ryan Crump
- Connor Randall (C)
- Daniel Cleary
- Dave Roberts
- Tom Brewitt
- Nathan Burke Goal!
- Ryan Kent
- Adam Phillips 64
- Sheyi Ojo
- Sam Hart
- Andrew Firth
- Dharius Waldron 76
- Jack Alexander
- Matthew Virtue
- Louis Robles 64