By Nik Brumsack at Esenyurt Necmi Kadioglu Stadyumu
Arsenal have qualified for the last 16 of the Uefa Youth League after a convincing 3-1 victory against Galatasaray in Istanbul.
Kerem Caliskan's early goal gave the hosts the perfect start but Arsenal rallied well and turned the game on its head with two goals in as many first-half minutes, courtesy of Stephy Mavididi and Tyrell Robinson.
Aaron Eyoma made sure of a convincing victory soon after the break and a couple of good Ryan Huddart saves preserved the lead in the closing stages.
Just as last season and in the NextGen Series two years ago, Arsenal have progressed through the group stages. They will find out their last-16 opponents when the draw is made on Monday, but will definitely play the one-legged tie away from home after finishing second in Group D.
SETTING THE SCENE
The equation was simple enough. Arsenal would qualify for the knockout stages as long as they did not lose 4-0 or by five or more clear goals.
With the first team having already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League proper, Arsene Wenger included under-19 regulars Stefan O'Connor, Gedion Zelalem, Alex Iwobi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in his squad for the evening's game against Galatasaray's senior squad.
That meant a reshuffle was required here - and Steve Gatting made seven changes from the side that had beaten Borussia Dortmund last time out, with only Chiori Johnson, Dan Crowley, Chris Willock and Mavididi retaining their places in a young team.
Galatasaray, roared on by a raucous home crowd, started purposefully and were given a sizeable fillip after just eight minutes.
Altug Tas - the Turkish side's best player at Boreham Wood in October - was the instigator, darting to the byline before crossing low into the box. His centre was met by Caliskan, whose fiercely-struck eight-yard effort flew into the roof of the net.
George Dobson had to be alert to nod another teasing Tas delivery clear, but Arsenal were growing into the game, keeping possession diligently.
They coped with the game becoming more stretched too, the pace of Aaron Eyoma and Willock causing constant problems for the hosts' defence.
Captain Crowley sent a free-kick inches over and Mavididi rattled the crossbar, before the latter did eventually score a deserved equaliser five minutes before the break.
After darting in behind the defence, the striker cut inside and saw his effort wrong-foot Mert Karaca.
Now Galatasaray needed to score six in order to progress. A minute later, they needed seven. This time, the energetic Robinson burst through and planted a fierce shot into the far corner from the edge of the area.
It took Arsenal just 90 seconds of the second half to find a third goal. Mavididi made space in the left channel and delivered a low ball into the box. Ali Muhammed Kurt and Furkan Kopuz were unable to clear, allowing Eyoma to finish clinically from close range.
Gatting's side were largely in control but the hosts did continue to make chances. On two occasions, Arsenal were indebted to Huddart for diverting Caliskan shots away from goal.
Galatasaray kept attacking but were repelled by Arsenal's back line. Harry Donovan and Josh Da Silva were given Youth League debuts in the closing stages as Arsenal played out time. Their European campaign goes on.
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.