By Isaac Moore at Stamford Bridge
Arsenal Under-18s were narrowly beaten by Chelsea in the first leg of their Youth Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge.
Chuba Akpom blasted the young Gunners into an early second-half lead before quickfire strikes from Charlie Colkett and Alex Kiwomya turned the tie in Chelsea's favour.
Arsenal have it all to do at Emirates Stadium in a week's time, but the academy hold an unbeaten record in N5 and will be confident of turning around this finely-poised scoreline.
SETTING THE SCENE
Carl Laraman made just one change with Daniel Crowley, who was influential in Arsenal's early-round wins over Torquay and Peterborough, given the nod ahead of Jack Jebb.
Both sides came into this game with no shortage of confidence in front of goal with 29 between them in the competition so far. Chelsea were looking to reach the final for the fourth time in five years while this was Arsenal's best run since they went all the way in 2009.
Arsenal created the first opening of the game in the 13th minute. Maitland-Niles spun past Fankaty Dabo on the right which created room for him to shoot in the box, but his low effort flew narrowly wide of the far post.
The Gunners then had Josh Vickers to thank for a smart double save to keep them level. After some neat interplay, Colkett saw his effort pushed away by the Arsenal stopper who was then quick off his feet to smother Kiwomya's rebound.
The hosts shaded possession for the remainder of an uneventful half. Iwobi saw a looping header tipped over by Beeney before Ruben Loftus-Cheek had a shot deflected wide in the closing moments.
Arsenal took the lead 10 minutes into the second half. Maitland-Niles played a slide-rule pass through to Akpom who drove past Andreas Christensen and crashed a shot past Beeney in front of small band of Gunners fans.
But it didn't take the hosts long to respond. In the 59th minute Loftus-Cheek lifted a cute pass into Colkett whose drilled finish flew past Vickers.
Chelsea completed the turnaround midway through the second half when Vickers could only push Dominic Solanke's close-range header into Kiwomya's path and the winger tucked home from inside the six-yard box.
Vickers had to be alert to block from Solanke as Chelsea pushed forward in search of a two-goal cushion. The Arsenal goalkeeper saved his best stop of the night until last with a flying dive to push away Fankaty Dabo's piledriver.
A disappointing night for Laraman's side but it's still all to play for when the sides meet again next Thursday.
- Akpom Goal!
- Zelalem 66
- Jebb 66
- Clarke-Salter 76 Yellow Card
- Dabo 88
- Kiwomya Goal!
- Loftus-Cheek Yellow Card
- Colkett Goal!
- Brown 70
- Ssewankambo 76
- Palmer 88
- Dasilva 70