By Nik Brumsack at Underhill
Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup campaign is over after a crazy nine-minute spell at the start of the second half set up a 4-2 victory for Everton at Underhill.
Chris Long, Conor Grant and Harry Charsley scored between the 47th and 56th minute after Matthew Pennington had earlier cancelled out Chuba Akpom’s opener.
Serge Gnabry threatened a comeback when he curled home a stunning effort with just under 20 minutes to play, but Arsenal came up short.
It was a disappointing end to a Youth Cup run that had promised much.
Steve Gatting named an unchanged side from the one that started against Fulham in the fourth round. Akpom started in attack, where he was supported by Anthony Jeffrey and Gnabry. Alfred Mugabo was the shield in front of the defence, with Jack Jebb and Kris Olsson operating just in front of him. Isaac Hayden captained the side from central defence, where he was partnered by Zac Fagan.
Starting quickly has been a trait of Arsenal’s cup campaign. They had scored relatively early against both Newcastle and Fulham in prior rounds, and they did the same here.
Gatting’s side started promisingly enough, but with Everton content to defend deeply, the home side struggled to create a clear-cut opportunity in the early stages.
That changed after 11 minutes. Hayden, 10 yards inside his own half, looked up and swung a crossfield pass that Jeffrey did well to reach. Having got to the ball, the winger danced his way past two challenges before crossing low for the onrushing Akpom to poke home.
It was a goal of top quality, but the lead lasted just 100 seconds.
Everton earned a free kick just outside the area. It was curled in by Harry Charsley and met by the head of Pennington, who planted a firm header past Deyan Iliev and in.
Arsenal recovered quickly from that setback.
Hayden marauded forward from centre half and was inches away from making contact with Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill’s cut-back.
Then Gnabry had a shot well held by Russell Griffiths, before the goalkeeper had to react quickly to scoop Olsson’s effort off the line, after he had dropped the midfielder’s initial effort.
Arsenal were pushing and probing, but their play lacked the enterprising quality that had seen them advance to this stage. Kevin Sheedy’s organised Everton outfit frustrated them, defending solidly and giving the young Gunners no time on the ball.
As the half wore on, the visitors began to pose more of a threat themselves. The lively Long forced an opening for himself before bringing a good save out of Iliev on the half hour. He went closer seven minutes later, dragging a shot just off target.
Gatting’s side had probably shaded the first half, but their opponents raced out of the blocks at the beginning of the second, producing a devastating nine-minute triple salvo that effectively ended the tie.
After a cross was only cleared to the edge of the area 90 seconds in to the second half, Long took aim and rifled a shot into the roof of the net.
Just a minute later, things got worse, when Grant fired home from close range.
And after 56 minutes, the visitors were virtually out of sight.
Arsenal were awarded a free kick 25 yards out. Olsson tapped the ball to Jebb but his pass lacked power and was intercepted. Everton broke with speed and the overlapping Pennington drew Iliev from his goal before squaring for Charsley to tap in.
The home side were rattled. The crisp and incisive passing so often a hallmark of their play was absent, and they struggled to make any real chances.
Gnabry did give them brief hope when he embarked on a mazy run before curling a sumptuous left-footed strike into the far corner.
But, despite showing plenty of endeavour, it was not to be for Arsenal. Their Youth Cup dream is over for another season.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.