Arsenal Under-18s ended their season in style with an entertaining 5-3 win at Leicester City to prepare them for the play-off stage of the Premier Academy League.
Elliott Moore gave put the hosts ahead inside seven minutes but Stephy Mavididi and Stefan O’Connor struck before the break to turn the tie on its head.
Mavididi then hit a second after half-time before Aaron Eyoma and Gedion Zelalem made it five as the young Gunners looked to be cruising to victory.
Keenan King and Kyle Bailey did pull goals back for Leicester in the final two minutes but Arsenal held out to end an ultimately frustrating season on a positive note.
Frans de Kat made seven changes to the side that lost 3-1 against Norwich City.
Hugo Keto replaced Ryan Huddart while an experienced back line featuring O’Connor, George Dobson and Marc Bola was preferred.
Elsewhere Krystian Bielik retained his place in midfield and was joined by under-21 regulars Ainsley Maitland Niles and Zelalem, while Mavididi looked to continue his goalscoring form up front.
The Gunners got off to a slow start when Dobson’s slip put Layton Ndukwu through on goal and the winger forced Keto into a fine diving save. However, Arsenal failed to clear the resulting corner and Moore was able to smash home at the back post.
De Kat’s side reacted well, though, and soon found an equaliser from the spot. Renny Smith charged into the box and was brought down by Hamza Choudhury, allowing Mavididi to confidently find the bottom corner with his penalty.
O’Connor then stepped out of defence to start the Gunners’ next attack before sprinting into the box to meet Smith’s low cross and volley past Max Smith-Varnam to give Arsenal the lead.
The visitors began the second half as they finished the first and Chris Willock’s powerful run saw him beat Connor Kennedy and find Mavididi who swept it home from close range.
Arsenal looked rampant and their next goal was a classic counter-attack the first team would have been proud of. Mavididi broke from a Leicester corner to find Maitland-Niles who found the onrushing Eyoma. The forward dribbled into the box, shifted the ball onto his left foot and calmly rolled into the bottom corner.
Bielik was at the heart of the Gunners’ fifth as he worked the ball across the pitch for O’Connor to find Willock in plenty of space on the left. The winger pulled back to Zelalem who rifled a low drive beyond the reach of Smith-Varnam.
Leicester had been put to the sword by an Arsenal side full of confidence but they still had time to score twice more. First King beat Keto at the near post following good work by Harvey Barnes before Bailey converted the goalkeeper’s mis-kick as the Gunners desperately held on to their two-goal advantage in the final minutes.
“It’s a good victory and it’s always good to score five goals,” De Kat said. “We did not start or end very well but between it was better.
“As a team we had a better team performance in defending and attacking. The first half was not very good but after 10 minutes it got better. We had more energy in the second half.”
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