By Isaac Moore at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal Under-18s are into the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup.
They got there after producing a supreme team performance to beat Everton 3-1 at Emirates Stadium.
Goals in the first half from Jack Jebb and Chuba Akpom set Arsenal on their way before Joe Williams nodded Everton back into it at the start of the second half.
But a wonderful free-kick from Jebb sealed the win for the young Gunners midway through the second half. They will now take on either Newcastle United or Chelsea in the last four.
SETTING THE SCENE
Carl Laraman kept faith with the team that started against Charlton in the previous round. Gedion Zelalem partnered Glen Kamara in the heart of midfield with Akpom again returning from Coventry to start up front.
A crowd of 2,725 were in attendance at the Emirates to cheer the young Gunners on as they looked to qualify for the last four for the first time since the victorious 2008/09 cup run.
Arsenal had beaten Torquay and Peterborough in the previous rounds before that late winner against Charlton. But Everton, who knocked the Gunners out of the competition last season, would surely provide them with their stiffest test so far.
The opening 10 minutes confirmed just that. Everton were quick to settle and missed three good chances to take the lead.
First, Callum Dyson's searching cross from the right was met by forward Courtney Duffus, whose header had to be helped over the crossbar by Josh Vickers. The Arsenal stopper was forced into another save from the resulting corner - this time to deny Dyson.
In the 11th minute the Toffees should have been in front. Gethin Jones sent in a cross from the right and Ryan Ledson was left untracked but he put his header wide from point-blank range. It was a let-off for the home side.
But as the half wore on Arsenal started to dictate possession with Jebb, Zelalem and Kamara pulling the strings. Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill was often found in space on the left but he couldn't pick out an Arsenal attacker with his crosses.
The hosts' first decent opportunity of the half came on 30 minutes when Jebb's low corner was dummied by three Arsenal players before eventually reaching Akpom who blazed an effort over from close range.
Four minutes later, Arsenal were in front. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi combined before the former back-heeled through to Akpom and he was upended by Griffiths, giving referee Chris Breakspear no choice but to point to the spot. Jebb kept his cool from 12 yards with a drilled finish into the corner.
It was all Arsenal now. Ormonde-Ottewill went close to making it two just a minute later when his low effort was palmed away by Griffiths. But Arsenal didn't have to wait much longer.
In the 40th minute Everton's defence hesitated and Akpom was sent clear on goal. The forward swivelled onto his left foot and lashed an expert finish into the top corner.
The tie could have been dead and buried in first-half stoppage time when Maitland-Niles' long-range effort cannoned off the crossbar and over.
Everton reduced the deficit just three minutes into the second half. Arsenal failed to clear a deep cross from substitute Michael Donohue. Tryone Duffus nodded back at the far post for Williams to turn the ball past Vickers.
The visitors were shutting the Gunners down in midfield with more zest, and it made for a nervy opening to the second period.
But on the hour the game turned back in Arsenal's favour. The Gunners hit the woodwork for the second time in the game when Akpom rattled the bar after Jebb's initial shot was pushed away by Griffiths.
In the 64th minute Arsenal's two-goal lead and a place in the last four was secured and it came from a moment of individual brilliance. Jebb, who has a reputation for being a free-kick specialist, curled a stunning effort into the corner from 20 yards leaving Griffiths motionless. It was a goal worthy of winning any cup tie.
To their credit. Everton didn't give up and should have made it a nervy ending for Arsenal when Jones' low cross beat Siemann and fell into Courtney Duffus' path, but the forward lost his composure and fired a shot over.
As full-time drew closer, the visitors inevitably threw men forward leaving spaces for Arsenal to exploit. In the 77th minute Akpom hit the side-netting when he should have hit the target and he was denied his brace with a smart low save from Griffiths six minutes later.
Laraman's side go marching on and move a step closer to emulating the success of the 2009 side.
- Zelalem Yellow Card
- Akpom Goal!
- Jebb Goal! Goal!
- Griffiths Yellow Card
- Williams 76 Goal!
- Shannon 64
- Dyson 43
- Charsley 64
- Donohue 43