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Post-Match Report

Arsenal 2-2 Villarreal: How it happened

Villarreal Yth -

Emirates Stadium
Premier League International Cup
Premier League International Cup
  Arsenal U23
      
                  John-Jules (8')
                   Gilmour (19' pen)
            
   crest
Arsenal U23
John-Jules (8')
Gilmour (19' pen)
2 2
  Villarreal Yth
      
              Dalmau Vaquer (20')
               Medley (40' og)
          
   crest
Villarreal Yth
Dalmau Vaquer (20') Medley (40' og)

WHAT HAPPENED

Zech Medley scored the winning penalty in the shootout as our under-23s reached the final of the Premier League International Cup with a dramatic win against Villarreal.

We came into this clash at Emirates Stadium in fine form, having already beaten the likes of last year’s winners, Porto, and Bayern Munich en route to the semi-final.

We made a dream start when Tyreece John-Jules, who has starred during our run to the final four in the FA Youth Cup, gave us the lead inside the first 10 minutes.

It came after a slick passing move that saw Josh Dasilva release Xavier Amaechi and, after his cross was cleared off the line following a scramble, John-Jules pounced on the loose ball and found the top corner.

Things got even better for Steve Getting’s men when the lively Amaechi slipped Charlie Gilmour in with a neat pass into the area, and the midfielder was tripped by Sergio Lozano Lluch. Gilmour stepped up himself and made no mistake from the spot.

But Villarreal responded within 60 seconds when Adrian Dalmau Vaquer fired in for the visitors, and drew level just before the interval through a Medley own goal.

After all the drama of the first half, there were no further goals throughout the second period - nor extra time, so the game went to penalties.

After six spot kicks, the two teams were all square having all converted of their penalties before Deyan Iliev saved from Ruben Mesa Visiga.

Joe Willock kept his nerve with the next to put up 4-3 up, and while Villarreal converted their fifth and final penalty, Medley slotted in the winner to send us to the final.

WHAT IT MEANS

We will face the winner of the other semi-final, which will see Newcastle take on Porto - who we beat in the group stage - on Thursday.

FA Youth Cup

Youth Cup: Chelsea v Arsenal - The Brief

Danny Ballard leads our under-18s out

Our under-18s are in FA Youth Cup action on Friday night when they face Chelsea in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

THE STORY SO FAR

It’s been an incredible journey for Kwame Ampadu’s under-18s.
 
Our youngsters have seen off Sheffield Wednesday, Liverpool, Colchester United and Blackpool to reach the final, scoring 20 goals in six FA Youth Cup matches in the process.
 
A 5-0 victory in the second leg of the semi-final at the start of the month was the perfect way to build confidence ahead of the competition decider, and Ampadu is proud of how his young side have risen to the occasion.
 
“I’m absolutely delighted for them,” he told Arsenal.com. “We said to them at the start of the season that it was going to be about hard work, togetherness, unity and also them pushing each other every single day in training to improve as individuals and collectively. In fairness to them, they have been brilliant. The attitude and response has been fantastic.
 
“We’re very demanding of them and we allow them to be demanding of each other so that they push each other, too. I think they see fairness in how we treat them and we allow them to express themselves.
 
“A big part of becoming a successful player is being able to immerse yourself in the team and the common goal of the team, and the players have bought into that.”


THE STANDOUT PERFORMANCE

There has been plenty to be proud of during this season’s cup run.
 
From our second-half blitz at Colchester United to the consistently clinical performances of Tyreece John-Jules and Xavier Amaechi, our youngsters have shown a real maturity throughout this year’s competition. But for Ampadu, one performance epitomised it more than any other.
 
Heading out in the fourth round at the hands of Steven Gerrard’s then-unbeaten Liverpool side, we rallied together to equalise through Bukayo Saka in the 85th minute, before Tyreece John-Jules scored an extra-time winner at the Kop end. 
 
“The spirit that they showed at Anfield, for them to come from behind in a very tough game against a very tough team was amazing,” the head coach said. “To go behind in that game and then show the spirit and the fight in that game to comeback, to turn around and beat them at Anfield, I thought that was an excellent game. They’ve also had good tests for different reasons, but that game probably stands out.
 
“The first leg against Blackpool was a tough match too but back at the Emirates, obviously we had a better surface and you could see the difference in quality. We were able to move the ball around a lot quicker and that suited us.”


THE OPPOSITION

We have the chance to lift our first FA Youth Cup title since 2009, but the toughest challenge of all is yet to come.
 
Champions in six of the last eight seasons, Chelsea have dominated this competition in recent years and are chasing their fifth successive title this time around.
 
And although Ampadu’s son, Ethan, will miss both legs with an ankle injury, the Blues still have plenty of quality all over the pitch.
 
“They have some fantastic players, some fantastic individuals,” Ampadu said. “There may be a couple of players who have been involved in their first team this year and then the players surrounding them are also good players. They don’t have many weaknesses, they’re always very strong and it’s going to be a very hard game.
 
“I wouldn’t say it takes the pressure off us because there’s always pressure. This club’s about winning things and that pressure will be on the players. The boys are looking forward to it.”

Ethan Ampadu in action for Chelsea

ONE TO WATCH

For all of our attacking quality, one of the biggest stories from this season’s cup run involves a youngster at the other end of the field.
 
Released as a schoolboy back in 2016, Danny Ballard broke his ankle while on trial with Southampton and rejoined local club Stevenage to regain his fitness.
 
The Northern Ireland international was poised to sign scholarship forms with Boro, but then was offered a chance to rejoin us and he’s not looked back since.
 
Now our FA Youth Cup captain, the young centre back has scored twice in this competition - and is a fine example to all of his team-mates.
 
“Danny wears the armband because he epitomises what we’re about,” Ampadu said. “Every day that he comes in, he tries to squeeze the absolute maximum out of himself in order to improve himself and make himself a better player. We’re just starting to see the fruits of that this year, and he’s done very well.
 
“He works so hard because the experience has been taken away from him. He knows what it’s like to have that conversation and be leaving these premises with nothing. He’s been given another bite at the cherry and he’s definitely trying to grab it with both hands.”

Burton and Ballard celebrate

FOLLOW THE ACTION

We will be providing updates on our Twitter account, @Arsenal, while UK residents can also follow the first leg on ITV4.
 
Kick-off is at 7.45pm (UK time).

Interview

Nketiah - Why I always look for Reiss on the pitch

Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson

Eddie Nketiah had yet another night to remember on Friday evening.

Spearheading our under-23s’ exciting front line, the 18-year-old scored twice as we beat West Ham United 3-1 to win the Premier League 2 at London Stadium.

“It feels great,” he told Arsenal Player. “I’m just delighted to be able to help the team get a trophy that we deserve. We’ve worked hard all season round and to get the glory at the end to finish it off is a great feeling. 

“It’s always nice to get on the scoresheet. To be able to score when we needed it is a great feeling, but it’s not just me. The whole team was great and to be able to get the win is great and I’m delighted with it, and my link-up play with Reiss too. 

“I just like playing with Reiss. He’s a great player and I have a good communication with him. We’re friends off the field, so we always look for each other on the pitch. If he’s in a good position, then I look for him and if I’m in a good position, he looks for me. It’s good to get those good relationships, especially with No 9 and No 10 playing so close together.

“I think I’m becoming a stronger and better player now because I’ve been switching between under-23s and first-team football,” he added. “But I’m delighted to be able to show what I can do and help the team when I come back down. That’s what matters.”

Eddie Nketiah

Interview

‘Everyone was sad but we had to focus on the game'

Vlad Dragomir

The build-up to our under-23s’ Premier League 2 title decider against West Ham United was dominated by one key talking point.

Arsène Wenger had revealed on Friday morning that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, and it was a decision which shocked players and fans alike.

“It’s big news for us,” Vlad Dragomir told Arsenal.com. “I think everyone is sad to hear it but like we said to the boys, we had to focus on this game. We had to make sure we won the game and won the league because everyone has been working very hard this season and we really deserve this. 

“The manager has helped me a lot. Whenever he’s talking about football, I like to follow him and just get his ideas because he’s a legend and I respect him a lot. He’s done a lot for this club and for me as well.”

Dragomir started as we beat the Hammers 3-1 to win the division at London Stadium, and was delighted with the contribution that he has made to our second string this season.

“I feel that I’ve improved a lot this season,” he said. “I’ve been working hard and at a club like Arsenal you have to work hard if you want to play. If you want to be in the team, you always need to be at your best. We did very well. 

“Winning the league title is a good feeling for us. We worked very hard this season and we’re very happy for the big win against West Ham United.” 

Arsenal Under-23s celebrate winning the league

Post-Match Report

Under-18s: Arsenal 2-1 Swansea - How it happened

Our under-18s came from a goal behind to beat 10-man Swansea City 2-1 at London Colney on Saturday.

Trae Coyle and Tyreece John-Jules were both on target as we continued to build momentum ahead of our two-legged FA Youth Cup final against Chelsea at the end of the month.
 
The afternoon did not get off to the best start, though, with the visitors in the ascendancy. Oli Cooper stung Daniel Barden’s palms with a stunning 25-yard strike but Tom Price would get the better of our keeper moments later, smashing into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
 
We fought back, though, and substitute Matt Smith - who had replaced the injured Robbie Burton after just 20 minutes - was unlucky to see his shot cannon off the crossbar following good work by Coyle.
 
Swansea held out to go into half-time a goal ahead, but our fortunes would change after the break. Bukayo Saka breezed past his man on the left-hand side to find Coyle, who effortlessly slotted home inside the box.
 
Now full of momentum, we continued to create wave after wave of attack and Saka would cause the visitors problems once more. Using his pace and power to beat two defenders, he was eventually brought down by Joe Lewis and the referee pointed to the spot.
 
The Swansea captain picked up his second yellow card and John-Jules held his nerve to send Nathan Shepperd the wrong way and our under-18s on the way to three well-earned points.
 
There was one final chance for us to score again, but Xavier Amaechi’s powerful drive struck the foot of the post in the last few minutes.

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