Arsenal Under-18s went down to a narrow 2-1 defeat against Manchester United Under-18s on Saturday morning in an evenly-matched contest at London Colney.
The Gunners took the lead after 16 minutes through Alex Iwobi but goals either side of half-time by United forwards Ashley Fletcher and James Wilson saw the visitors go home with the points and condemn Carl Laraman’s side to their second defeat of the season.
Gedion Zelalem made his under-18 debut as coach Carl Laraman fielded a strong team. Chuba Akpom and Glen Kamara also started.
Fletcher struck a post for United after just two minutes but, that aside, it was Arsenal who made the much brighter start. Dan Crowley and Zelalem began to impose themselves on proceedings and after 16 minutes the home side got the breakthrough.
Crowley and Iwobi exchanged passes and set Akpom through on goal. The striker was bought down by Callum Evans and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot. Akpom picked himself up to take the spot-kick which was saved by Dean Henderson, but Iwobi was on hand to fire home the rebound.
United drew level against the run of play on the half-hour mark. Wilson found space down the left channel and unselfishly squared for Fletcher to tap home.
The influential Crowley picked up a knock just before the equaliser and was replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The game now had much more of an even balance to it and the visitors started to threaten more frequently. Matthew Macey palmed away Josh Harrop’s free-kick and Wilson continued to cause the Arsenal back four problems. Akpom was then booked for dissent five minutes before half-time after he was denied a penalty after appearing to be brought down in the box.
The second half started evenly. Fletcher saw a low drive go inches past the post for the visitors, then Akpom beat two players only to see his cross blocked by the legs of Henderson.
In the 58th minute, Manchester United took the lead with a superb individual goal from Wilson. The forward picked the ball up midway inside the Arsenal half and beat four players before slotting a cool finish past Macey.
Arsenal had plenty of possession for the remainder of the game but the visitors’ defended stubbornly. The Gunners were limited to a couple of long-range shots from Jack Jebb. Akpom, who was bright throughout the game, tried to curl an effort into the far corner after 78 minutes but his effort sailed wide.
The visitors always looked a threat on the break with the pace of Fletcher and the threat of Devonte Redmond causing Arsenal problems down the left in the closing stages. Harrop sent another free-kick just over the bar with five minutes remaining as they held out for the three points.
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