Extra-time derby defeat in FA Youth Cup
Arsenal 5-2 Spurs (AET)
Thu 17 January 2019, 21:58|Tottenham Hotspur
Our Under-18s twice led against Arsenal but came unstuck in extra time to exit the FA Youth Cup at the fourth round stage on Thursday night.
Armando Shashoua and J'Neil Bennett had us 2-1 in front after a bright first-half display but the Gunners - hosting the game at Boreham Wood FC - enjoyed the better of the second period and forced the tie into extra time at 2-2. Both goals could have been avoided from our point of view but it was the home side who had taken the upper hand and they pushed on to win 5-2 in the additional half-hour.
We were deservedly ahead after eight minutes. It all started with Paris Maghoma roaming in from the left side, a handful of players went for the ball on the edge of the box and it eventually broke free to Troy Parrott peeling away to the left, he fizzed it low across the face of goal and captain Shashoua - playing in a more advanced position in the absence of the influential duo of Dilan Markanday and Rodel Richards, both injured in Saturday's 4-1 league win at Brighton - was on hand to ram home.
A mistake cost us the lead five minutes later as Harvey White inadvertently turned into trouble and Ben Cottrell won possession, advanced into the box and lashed high into the net, but we upped our game and really could have been more than one goal ahead at the break. Getting a lot of joy down the left in particular, we regained the lead as Luis Binks sent left-back Dennis Cirkin away down that flank, his low centre was met by Maghoma and he was able to ferry it on to Bennett on the far side, who gleefully rifled past goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo. Maghoma went through one-on-one with the latter moments later but Arsenal's defence recovered to clear.
Arsenal's Bukayo Saka - the only player on the pitch with first team appearances under his belt - was kept relatively quiet in the first period and instead it was Xavier Amaechi who posed the home side's biggest threat on the break but when he tried a fierce shot six minutes before the interval, goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi went flying away to his right to turn it behind for a corner.
Arsenal turned the tables and came at us in the second half and once again, our mistake led to an equaliser. This time it was keeper Oluwayemi who was penalised for his challenge on Cottrell as a cross from the left bounced towards the back post and Saka stepped up to blast the penalty in off the upright with 51 minutes on the clock.
Jamie Bowden was doing his best to orchestrate things in central midfield for us but the Gunners were pressing us right back and we were restricted to only the odd counter. Oluwayemi denied Balogun and Amaechi as the hosts turned the screw but we came through their spell of pressure and might have nicked an 87th-minute winner when Maghoma went through on goal in the left channel but right-back Vontae Daley-Campbell did just enough to force the ball back to Okonkwo.
Extra time then went firmly in the Gunners' favour. Folarin Balogun swept forward and drew Oluwayemi out before teeing up Amaechi to make it 3-2 on 95 minutes before the pair swapped roles, Amaechi forcing a save from the keeper at his near post and Balogun stabbing the loose ball in from close range seven minutes later. Saka hammered high inside the near post to complete the scoring 12 minutes from the end.
After such a positive performance in the opening 45 minutes, it was important to start well after half-time.
Sadly, it was the Gunners who made the greater impact upon the resumption and the key moment arrived on 51 minutes as they were awarded a penalty and duly drew level. Oluwayemi was penalised as he came off his line to thwart Cottrell but after saving two spot-kicks in our 3-2 league victory over our rivals earlier this season, he couldn't keep out Saka's effort, the Arsenal man sending him the wrong way as his strike smacked in off the post.
That goal ultimately sent the tie into extra time, which Arsenal took full advantage of to secure their passage into round five.
Under-18s Coach Matt Wells rued our inability to capitalise on the impressive early showing: "In the first half when we were well on top and dominating the game, we had some really good chances to add to the 2-1 scoreline so 3-1 or 4-1 wouldn't have been beyond the realms of possibility given the way we played," he said. "I was really happy with the bravery and intensity with which we played but in the second half we conceded a goal in a period where we were under a bit of pressure so that's disappointing. You could debate over whether it was a penalty or not but at 2-2, we had a great opening at the end of the 90 minutes where Paris Maghoma went clean through in the left channel but allowed the full-back to get back and make the challenge. That would have ended it but in extra time their subs made a good impact and as the game opened up, we gave a terrible third goal away and then we've had to chase the game. In the end the scoreline flatters Arsenal.
"The fourth goal was a blow but the lads were still very positive at half-time in extra time that we could get back into it, but then it was a wonder strike for the fifth goal which put the game completely to bed. I can't fault the mentality and the attitude of a group that has been unbeaten all season - it's a humbling evening and a great learning curve so we need to use it correctly to improve individually and collectively."
Arsenal 5-2 Spurs (AET)
Arsenal: Okonkwo, Daley-Campbell, Swanson (Lopez 90), Smith (c), McGuinness, Ogungbo, Amaechi, McEneff (Olayinka 46), Balogun (Coyle 113), Cottrell (Greenwood 116), Saka. Substitute (not used): Graczyk.
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Okedina, Cirkin, White, Lyons-Foster (Walcott 98), Binks (Clarke 98), Bennett, Bowden, Parrott (Pochettino 112), A Shashoua (c, Cooper 109), Maghoma. Substitute (not used): Kurylowicz.
Goals: Arsenal - Cottrell 13, Saka 51 (pen), 108, Amaechi 95, Balogun 102; Spurs - A Shashoua 8, Bennett 34.
Yellow cards: Arsenal - McGuinness 68, Smith 80.
Referee: Robert Whitton.
Venue: Meadow Park, Boreham Wood FC.
Weather: Partly cloudy, 1 degree.