Fielding a starting XI with four players who featured in Monday night's thrilling 5-3 win at Newcastle United in the FA Youth Cup, we played with maturity against a side featuring a handful of players with top-level experience but our hard work was undone three minutes before the interval when we gifted the Gunners possession and Yaya Sanogo beat Pau Lopez at his near post.
Shilow Tracey almost capitalised on a good start to the second half, only to see his effort cleared off the line by the retreating Mathieu Debuchy, while we needed a handful of impressive stops from Pau to keep us in with a chance as we gave it a real go in search of an equaliser.
However, Arsenal found an opening in the 88th minute with Reiss Nelson needing no second invitation to complete a 2-0 win for the Gunners at their Colney training centre.
GOAL: ARSENAL 1-0 SPURS - YAYA SANOGO - 42mins
Both sides started cautiously but the pace began to increase as the first period progressed. Sanogo's audacious overhead attempt was blocked by a combination of Joe Muscatt and Pau and, although the striker didn't see much of the ball, you got the feeling he would be Arsenal's main threat – in evidence when he robbed Japhet Tanganga and cut in from the right, only to see his shot blocked by Christian Maghoma. It was indeed Sanogo who got the opener on 42 minutes, though, and it was a sloppy goal for us to concede. Joe Pritchard's pass out from the back was intercepted by Carl Jenkinson, Sanogo ran on and squeezed a low shot between Pau's body and his left-hand post.
CHANCE: DEBUCHY BACK TO DENY TRACEY - 56mins
We made a bright start to the second half and so nearly drew level when Filip Lesniak won a tackle high up the pitch and released Tracey in behind, he beat advancing goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez with his rising shot but Debuchy managed to get back and head over his own crossbar to deny us an equaliser.
Above: Samuel Shashoua tussles for possession.
SAVES: PAU WITH SOME CRUCIAL STOPS - 62-82mins
While we continued to play some nice football, especially in midfield, we needed Pau to keep us in the game at crucial times. First, he tipped Vlad Dragomir's fierce drive around his right-hand post, then within 60 seconds produced a low fingertip save to deny Donyell Malen one-on-one as he raced through the middle before pouncing on the loose ball. On 82 minutes, the Spanish stopper was at it again with a fine double save, denying Malen once more before keeping out Jenkinson's tame effort on the follow-up.
GOAL: ARSENAL 2-0 SPURS - REISS NELSON - 88mins
As we committed bodies forward in search of a late leveller, the home side took advantage and grabbed a second goal to kill the game off with two minutes to go. Malen got to the byline on the right and cut back for Nelson, who hammered into the net from 14 yards. There was still time for one more Pau save as he clawed away Eddie Nketiah's effort at his near post in stoppage time.
COACH MATT WELLS SAID
“The first goal was very disappointing in terms of the way we gave it away – an unnecessary turnover on the edge of the box – and it came at a really pivotal time in the game when we were probably on top and starting to control it. The second goal came in a spell where we were really trying to push for the equaliser, we’ve over-committed in terms of bodies going forward and been caught on the break. That’s something we work on a lot, dealing with those narrow crosses, so it’s quite disappointing that the midfield line didn’t shut off the cut-back area but again it’s something to work on.
“This sort of test is what we want in the games – we want to play the strongest team that an opposition can put out and if it’s got first team experience like theirs did today, that’s the level the boys are aiming for. We arrive with a high expectation that the boys have to come out on top in their individual battles and that was disappointing today – I didn’t feel that in any of those match-ups we did come out on top. Obviously the effort was there but this was a real, genuine test today, playing against Premier League footballers and it’s a reminder of the work we’ve still got to be doing each day.
“For Shilow Tracey’s chance, Filip Lesniak did extremely well on something we spoke about at half-time, in terms of getting more pressure on their deep midfielders. He did really well to nick the ball and then it was a very good bit of defending to clear the ball off the line. At the top level that’s a decisive moment and that’s what Shilow is aiming for – he’s got to be decisive in those moments. I thought we were well in it then, we were pushing for the equaliser and on another day, if we’d taken it, who knows how the game unfolds from there?”
Arsenal: Martinez, Jenkinson, Bramall, McGuane, Debuchy, Sheaf (c), Malen, Nelson, Sanogo (Nketiah 46), Dragomir (J Da Silva 78), Willock. Substitutes (not used): Johnson, Olowu, Keto (GK).
Spurs: Pau Lopez, Muscatt (Owens 73), Tsaroulla, Lesniak (c), Maghoma, Tanganga, Stylianides, Marsh (Hinds 86), Tracey, Shashoua, Pritchard (Griffiths 73). Substitute (not used): Glover (GK).
Goals: Arsenal - Sanogo 42, Nelson 88.
Yellow cards: Arsenal - Sheaf 90+2; Spurs - Marsh 31, Tanganga 78, Lesniak 90.
We host Reading – another side hovering around us just above the drop zone – at Stevenage on Monday, March 13, in our next Premier League 2 outing, kick-off 7pm. Coincidentally, our Under-18s are also in league action at Arsenal tomorrow (Saturday, March 4) in an 11am kick-off.