By Max Jones at The Hive
Arsenal Under-18s were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup in the fifth round after losing 3-2 against Crewe Alexandra at The Hive.
It was a disappointing end to the young Gunners’ cup campaign after they had battled to come back twice against a hardworking and clinical Crewe side.
Liam O’Neill opened the scoring, sprinting clear of Arsenal’s defence to calmly finish into the bottom corner after just seven minutes, before Stefan O’Connor turned into his own net at the start of the second half.
Stephy Mavididi then pulled one back but Crewe restored their two-goal advantage 30 seconds later when Andre Brown tapped in at the near post to secure his side’s progression to the next round, despite Marc Bola’s late consolation.
SETTING THE SCENE
Frans de Kat made one change to the side that beat Royston Town 2-1 in January’s fourth-round victory, as O’Connor’s return saw Renny Smith switch to right back in Chiori Robinson’s absence.
Elsewhere, Mavididi - Arsenal’s leading goalscorer in the competition - continued his run up front after his brace helped the Gunners avoid a shock defeat against Royston.
The Hive provided not only a change of scenery for De Kat’s side after the tie had twice been called off at Meadow Park, but also an opportunity to set up a quarter-final clash against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium.
However, Crewe were also renowned for their academy, having produced full internationals David Platt, Dean Ashton and Danny Murphy, and would not be pushovers.
Crewe demonstrated why they were able to hit five past Bolton in the previous round when they came flying out of the blocks. O’Neill breezed past Smith and found George Cooper who curled over from 18 yards.
Arsenal did not react to the early warning and O’Neill backed himself the second time he raced behind the Gunners’ defence, cutting in from the left before coolly rolling into the far corner.
Brown then forced Ryan Huddart into a fine reaction save from the edge of the box before Oliver Finney smashed a bouncing ball over as Arsenal were put under pressure early on.
The young Gunners found their rhythm towards the end of the half, though, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles narrowly missing the top corner before Daniel Crowley tested Liam Matthews with a dipping free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
Crewe were on the attack again after the restart and were quickly rewarded for their sharpness. Huddart could only parry Brown’s powerful strike into O’Connor and the ball bounced off the defender, over the goalkeeper and into the net.
But then the Gunners sprung into action. Aaron Eyoma beat his man with quick feet to find Gedion Zelalem in the box whose volley was tapped in by Mavididi at the near post.
However, it took Crewe less than 30 seconds to respond when, with Arsenal searching for a quick-fire equaliser, Brown was able to convert a low cross at the near post.
Arsenal did pull another back when Bola smashed a loose ball into the bottom corner and the Gunners then mounted the pressure in the final minutes, but the visitors withstood the late onslaught to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.
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