In our second international fixture of the season, our Under-21s edged out a physical Monaco side 2-1 to record our first win in the competition on Monday evening at Meadow Park.
Goals from Catalin Cirjan and Jack Henry-Francis were enough to see off the French outfit.
Mehmet Ali made just two changes to the side that started in last week’s win over Everton with Charles Sagoe Jr and Nathan Butler-Oyedeji coming in for Marquinhos and Khayon Edwards respectively.
We started the game on the front foot and should have been awarded a penalty within the opening 60 seconds when Butler-Oyedeji was tripped by the Monaco goalkeeper, but the referee waved away our appeals.
Cirjan almost opened the scoring moments later when he connected with Amario Cozier-Duberry’s cross but his header was well saved. However, Cirjan would not be denied a second time and opened the scoring on the half-hour with a powerful low drilled effort to give us a deserved lead.
Despite our dominance, we needed a goal-saving block from Taylor Foran to deny an equaliser for the French side. We ended the half strongly and were unfortunate to not be further ahead with Zach Awe’s header grazing the bar from a corner and shortly after, Mauro Bandeira fired wide from close range after a magical run from Butler-Oyedeji. Our frontman's strong hold-up play and runs in behind caused the Monaco defence problems all night.
It was more of the same in the second half and Cirjan almost made it two early on but blazed over after a delightful pick out from Bandeira.
We finally doubled our lead with just under 20 minutes to go, when the impressive Butler-Oyedeji played in substitute Henry-Francis, who had the composure to calmly round the keeper and slot home.
The visitors pulled one back against the run of play as Coulibaly got in behind our defence to finish well, to set up a nervy final 15 minutes. However, we held on for a well-deserved three points and move above the French side in the group.
What it means
We gain our first win in the PL International Cup and move to the top of the table, edging out Sparta Prague U21 on goal difference after two games.
Hear from head coach Ali as well as goalscorer Cirjan as they reflected on a job well done against our French opposition:
Arsenal: Graczyk, Walters, Foran, Awe, Sousa, Smith, Bandeira (Henry-Francis, 60), Cirjan (Lewis-Skelly, 60), Cozier-Duberry (Nwaneri, 75), Sagoe Jr (Ideho, 75), Butler-Oyedeji (Edwards, 80)
Substitutes not used: Hillson (GK), Quesada-Thorn
Monaco: Olmeta, Babai, Cartillier, Valme, Bery, Magassa, Coulibaly, Lemarechal, Bagliere, Bamba, Decarpentrie
Substitutes: Baranik, Benama, Platret, Yacoub, Benchaouch, Kouassi
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