By Joe Nelson at Moss Rose
Stephy Mavididi struck a brace as Arsenal Under-21s returned to winning ways as they beat Stoke City on Saturday.
The result saw the Gunners move up to second in the table, with a game in hand on leaders Derby County after a hard-fought victory
Mavididi got the only goal of the first half in the 18th minute, after a fine piece of play from Daniel Crowley.
The second half saw Arsenal double their lead through Marcus McGuane in the 68th minute, before the controversial sending off of Crowley in the aftermath of the celebrations.
Stoke responded moments later through Julien N’Goy, but it was in vain as Mavididi sealed the win deep into added time to ensure the Gunners took three points back down to London.
SETTING THE SCENE
Steve Gatting made three changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Swansea City at London Colney last week.
Kristian Bielik, McGuane and Mavididi came into the starting line-up, with Tomas Rosicky and Tafari Moore not involved. Donyell Malen dropped to the bench.
Elsewhere, Kristopher Da Graca retained his place in the back four alongside captain Julio Pleguezuelo, whilst Jeff Reine-Adelaide also started.
The first real shot of the game came from Crowley in the 10th minute, as he stung the fingertips of Stoke goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann.
Crowley was involved again in the 18th minute as the Gunners broke the deadlock. The playmaker robbed Mason Watkins-Clark of possession on the wing, before breaking into the box and teeing up Mavididi, who made no mistake from close range.
The hosts came close to an equaliser five minutes from half-time, as N’Goy weaved his way into the box, before driving his shot over the bar from a dangerous position.
Matt Macey was forced into a fine save early in the second half, as Dominic Telford’s left-footed effort zipped off the turf, making it awkward for the shotstopper, who managed to palm it behind for a corner.
N’Goy was the main threat for the hosts, once again working his way into a shooting position inside the box and forcing Macey into a good block.
It was another Watkins-Clark’s error that led to the second Arsenal goal. This time, goalscorer Mavididi won the ball from the Stoke defender, feeding the onrushing McGuane to slot the ball calmly between the legs of Bachmann.
The most controversial moment of the game followed, as Crowley was sent off in the midst of the celebrations for dissent.
Stoke made good use of the extra man, flooding the Arsenal back line with waves of attacks, and it paid dividends in the 78th minute, as dangerman N’Goy powered his way through before beating Macey.
However, Arsenal wrapped up the three points deep into added time, as Mavididi raced clear of Liam Edwards, rounded Bachmann and rolled the ball into an empty net.
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