By Connor Armstrong
One goal made all the difference as Arsenal Under-23s were beaten by Manchester City in a close encounter on Friday night.
- U23s: Full fixture list
- Read up on the under-23s squad
- Go behind the scenes at youth team photocall day
Ainsley Maitland-Niles proved a handful throughout, sending a first-half effort wide of the post before seeing promising attempts blocked and rebounding off the post in the second period.
Despite Arsenal's dominance, though, City broke the deadlock when Rodney Kongolo combined with Aaron Nemane to send a controlled effort past Matt Macey.
Arsenal tried to find an equaliser as captain Ismael Bennacer was twice denied by Billy O’Brien, but the hosts withstood increasing pressure to claim all three points on home turf.
SETTING THE SCENE
There was just one change from the team that lost to Reading, as Steve Gatting handed a start to Glen Kamara.
Macey lined up in goal with Kris da Graca and Ben Sheaf continuing their partnership in the centre of defence.
Bennacer captained the side and was joined in midfield by Reiss Nelson.
Elsewhere, Stephy Mavididi led the forward line for Gatting’s side, flanked by Maitland-Niles and Chris Willock.
The match started quickly, but neither side were able to fashion a clear goalscoring opportunity in the opening 20 minutes.
Macey, however, was called into action in the 23rd minute, producing two important saves, first denying Javairo Dilrosun before stopping Paolo Fernandes on the follow-up.
The Gunners went close when Maitland-Niles took aim with a left-footed attempt from the edge of the area, but his effort went wide of the post.
The hosts took then took the lead when Nemane pulled the ball back and enabled Kongolo to place beyond Macey.
A late spell of Arsenal pressure saw Bennacer advance into the Manchester City area before forcing a save out of Billy O’Brien.
Arsenal immediately went in search of an equaliser after the break, with Bennacer’s free-kick tipped wide by O’Brien inside the opening 10 minutes.
Maitland-Niles was then denied a certain equaliser after Mavididi’s blistering pace saw him get in behind the City defence, but the midfielder’s shot from the striker's cut-back was blocked by Cameron Humphreys-Grant.
The Gunners continued to press for a goal, but were repeatedly frustrated by the hosts before Gatting opted to replace Chiori Johnson and Willock with Marcus McGuane and Donyell Malen.
Arsenal went closer still when a sweeping move culminated in Kostas Pileas picking out Maitland-Niles with a cross, but the attempt that followed cannoned back off the post.
City stood firm as the Gunners looked for the all-important goal which had eluded them, but time ran out on Gatting's side, who walked away empty-handed.
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