In a hard-fought game, Reo Griffiths gave us the lead at the end of a first period in which Arsenal had really tested our defensive resolve at times but, despite a more purposeful attacking performance from us after the break, the visitors turned the game around through Kostas Pileas and substitute Joe Willock.
We responded virtually straight away with in-form Griffiths poaching a close-range leveller but with one minute left of normal time and our players wanting a free-kick after Jack Roles was left sprawled on the ground, the Gunners went through and took the lead once more through Willock. Trae Coyle then made it 4-2 on the counter-attack with the last kick of the game as our players pushed forward in an attempt to salvage a point.
We struggled to get going in the first 20 minutes and had to be organised defensively to contain Arsenal’s lively forwards. After Donyell Malen and Josh Da Silva went close, we had goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman to thank for two important saves within 60 seconds of each other. First, he blocked well from Coyle on 16 minutes before hurling himself low down to his right to somehow turn away Da Silva’s 20-yard drive, with Eddie Nketiah slicing the rebound over the bar.
Griffiths’ movement up front was causing problems for Arsenal custodian Jono Virginia and midway through the first period his shot on the turn was well stopped by the keeper, while Jaden Brown and TJ Eyoma made vital, brave blocks at the other end as the Gunners tried to force an opener.
However, we took the lead on the stroke of half-time following a counter-attack started by midfielder Oliver Skipp. He found Griffiths, who exchanged passes with Samuel Shashoua and benefitted from a fortuitous touch to burst through on goal, round Virginia and roll the ball home, despite the best efforts of defender Pileas to slide in and block.
Whiteman made a good low stop from Malen at the start of the second period and Brown courageously threw his body in the way of Jordi Osei-Tutu’s strike from the right side of the area but, following a second corner in quick succession, Arsenal equalised on the hour mark when Pileas produced a low finish at the back post.
Five minutes later the Gunners were in front as Willock picked up possession just inside the box and, with our defenders not quick enough to close him down, he clipped a low shot into the net via the inside of the upright. Their lead lasted only three minutes, though, as Griffiths latched onto a bouncing ball in the box and steered it past Virginia at his near post.
The introduction of Nick Tsaroulla just before the equaliser gave us some fresh impetus on the left wing and he embarked on a couple of good runs forward as the game went on, while Griffiths forced the goalkeeper into an acrobatic save from the edge of the box on 74 minutes.
We were controlling the possession in the latter stages, although centre-back Japhet Tanganga – on his first start of the season after a spell on the sidelines – had to make a series of important interventions to deny the Gunners.
A draw looked likely as the seconds ticked down but, in the 89th minute, the referee waved play on after Roles went to ground and Willock took full advantage, driving forward down the left and lashing in.
Arsenal then made sure in the 94th minute, catching us on the break as we pushed up in search of an equaliser. The ball was switched to Coyle in space on the left side, he took a touch and rifled past the onrushing Whiteman.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“It was a tight game with a lot of players who had played in midweek in the UEFA Youth League, so we thought it would be interesting towards the end. I thought, in terms of chances and shots on goal, we did reasonably well, although I wasn’t particularly pleased with our general build-up play. Usually we dominate possession more than we did today.
“Reo Griffiths did well again and finished his chances and Japhet Tanganga came out of it with a lot of credit – I thought he was one of the best players on the pitch.
“We’re obviously feeling pretty despondent at the way the last few minutes went. Whether we were weak or if it was a foul for the third goal, we can look at that later. Sometimes in the last minute, when you try to throw the kitchen sink at them, you do take extraordinary risks and I think the fourth goal was just one of those things that can happen when you’ve risked everything looking for a goal. The third goal was more of a disappointment but we go into international break now, hopefully some boys might get the opportunity to train higher up, we’ll recharge our batteries and go again in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Spurs U18s: Whiteman, Hinds, Brown, Marsh (c), Tanganga (Dinzeyi 84), Eyoma, Oakley-Boothe, Skipp (Roles 73), Griffiths, Duncan, Shashoua (Tsaroulla 66). Substitutes (not used): Oteh, Austin (GK).
The international break means there’s no domestic fixture for our Under-18s next weekend. Our next outing at this level comes on Saturday, October 15, when we make the trip to Leicester City.