By Rob Kelly at Meadow Park
Arsenal’s youngsters will have to wait to see if they have progressed from Group F of the Uefa Youth League after being held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Marseille on Monday.
The Gunners sit on top of the table after five games following this result, and will progress if Dortmund lose at home to Napoli on Tuesday.
Steve Gatting’s side were on the back foot for much of the first half and Marseille twice went close before they grabbed the lead in the 35th minute through Antoine Kisaku.
The goal provoked an instant response from Arsenal, who restored parity through Kris Olsson’s penalty after Chuba Akpom had been pulled down.
The Gunners were not at their best and matters were made worse by Isaac Hayden’s red card just before half-time after he appeared to kick out at Kisaku.
But Marseille wasted their numerical advantage when Zinedine Machach was also shown a red card just after the break for a high tackle on Olsson.
Akpom twice forced Marseille keeper Florian Escales into sprawling stops as the hosts upped the tempo in the second half, but they could find no way through and had to settle for a point.
SETTING THE SCENE
More than two months had passed since the Gunners’ 4-1 victory in Marseille, and only five of that team started this game at Meadow Park.
With Serge Gnabry, who scored twice in the south of France, on first-team duty the creative spark was expected to be filled by Gedion Zelalem, back for only his second appearance of the season.
Elsewhere, Akpom was restored to the starting XI, while Hayden once again captained the side.
It was a tough first half for Gatting’s side and, after a sluggish start, they flirted with danger on numerous occasions.
Marseille were a team transformed from the defeat in France and managed to compact the play and make life difficult for the Gunners.
Indeed, they were a serious danger on the break and came perilously close to snatching the lead in the 18th minute when Franck Chiapale’s shot bounced off the inside of the post and back into Iliev’s hands.
There was an even bigger escape to follow on the half-hour mark as Jeremie Porsan-Clemente somehow miskicked from five yards out with the goal gaping.
Arsenal remained on the back foot and finally paid the price when the impressive Kisaku collected the ball 25 yards out and thumped a rasping drive beyond Iliev.
The goal sparked an immediate response from the hosts and Toral wasted a glorious chance when he scuffed his shot from close range after good work from Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill.
It mattered not as, two minutes later, Akpom was hauled down in the area and Olsson confidently converted the resulting penalty.
Akpom twice went close as the half neared its end but, on the stroke of the whistle, Hayden was given his marching orders after appearing to kick out at Kisaku.
The 10-man Gunners may have expected to be under the cosh but just eight minutes after the restart their numerical disadvantage was wiped out when Machach was sent off for a high tackle on Olsson.
Soon afterwards Akpom twice forced Escales into saves from close range as Gatting’s side sought to turn the screw on their tiring opponents.
When Akpom finally did get the ball in the Marseille goal after a superb twisting run by Olsson, it was ruled out as the linesman adjudged the ball to have gone out.
Frustration was building as Arsenal took control, but Marseille bore little resemblance to the side that had shipped four goals in France and continued to make life difficult.
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