By Connor Armstrong at Meadow Park
Our under-18s saw their FA Youth Cup hopes extinguished by a powerful Blackburn side.
The visitors reached the semi-final stage of last year’s competition - as did the Gunners - and they were handed a boost when Reiss Nelson was shown a red card after just 21 minutes for violent conduct.
Eddie Nketiah had two promising opportunities, first being teed up by the combination play of Emile Smith-Rowe and Donyell Malen, then carving open an chance of his own by swivelling away from his marker.
On both occasions Nketiah fired wide of the near post, enabling Blackburn to make the most of their extra man and they scored a winner in 79th minute through Daniel Butterworth.
SETTING THE SCENE
Kwame Ampadu opted to start Joao Virginia in goal, behind a back four of Jordi Osei-Tutu, Josh Dasilva, Joseph Olowu and Tolaji Bola.
Marcus McGuane paired up with Vlad Dragomir in midfield, with Smith-Rowe, Nelson and Malen in behind Nketiah.
Nathan Tella was among the substitutes, as was Joe Willock - brother of our under-23 winger Chris.
It was always going to be a tense encounter with both of last season’s beaten semi-finalists going head-to-head, but Blackburn were in the ascendancy after Nelson’s red card for his part in a scuffle.
Smith-Rowe and Malen had doubled up down the right to create an opportunity for Nketiah moments earlier, but he slammed a powered attempt wide of the near post.
Dasilva then rescued Ampadu’s side from a seemingly perilous situation when he made a late block as the visitors attempted to round Virginia.
The half ended with Nketiah losing his marker but dragging a low, bouncing effort wide of goal.
The second half started with Blackburn looking to make the most of their man advantage, and they would have done so were it not for a fine reflex save from Virginia to deny Tre Pemberton.
Rovers did eventually claim the lead, but not until the 79th minute when Butterworth charged on to a delivery to thump a header past Virginia.
The Portuguese goalkeeper came to the Gunners' rescue again soon after, charging out from goal to win a tackle on the halfway line before moving the ball away from danger.
Tella had the best of the late chances after coming on as a substitute, but his effort skewed wide of the near post as Rovers progressed at our expense.