Richards fires Under-23s to north London derby win
Arsenal 0-1 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Sat 26 September 2020, 16:02|Tottenham Hotspur
Rodel Richards struck the winner just past the hour mark as our Under-23s took the spoils in the Premier League 2 north London derby on Saturday lunchtime.
In control of the game from an early stage at Arsenal’s London Colney training base, J’Neil Bennett was denied one-on-one by goalkeeper Karl Hein and we had two strong appeals for a penalty waved away in the first period, before Kazaiah Sterling set up Richards to curl home off the inside of the post on his left foot.
Alfie Whiteman had earlier somehow kept out James Olayinka’s close-range effort after two heroic blocks by our defenders in the box, while some superb individual performances ensured there was no way for our rivals to get back into it in the last half-an-hour as we emerged with a fully-deserved 1-0 victory.
Trialist Marcel Lavinier’s early claims for hand-ball against Arsenal defender Harry Clarke in the hosts’ box were waved away by the referee as we started strongly with Harvey White superb in providing a shield in front of the impressive centre-back pairing of captain Jubril Okedina and Brooklyn Lyons-Foster.
The Gunners almost grabbed the lead on 18 minutes when Olayinka and George Lewis both saw low shots blocked in the box before Whiteman clawed out Olayinka’s follow-up attempt on his line from point-blank range. The hard-working Richards got forward from central midfield to make inroads into the area nine minutes later and again there were loud appeals for a penalty as he went to ground under pressure from two defenders, but the referee waved play on once more.
Right-back Dermi Lusala, 17 years old and up from the Under-18s for his first competitive appearance at this level having played his part in our Under-18 Premier League win over Arsenal last weekend, produced a couple of important defensive headers to prevent the hosts from breaking forward during a spell in the ascendancy for them before our best chance of the first half arrived six minutes before the break, winger Bennett breaking forward in the left channel but seeing his shot blocked one-on-one by the advancing Hein.
Richards’ shot from the resulting corner was well saved while White’s free-kick just before half-time sailed over the bar, but the midfielder was largely in control of the central areas and almost set up the breakthrough on the hour mark when he spotted Maurizio Pochettino’s run in behind the defence, but Hein was out quickly to claim just ahead of the winger.
Less than a minute later we were ahead, though. Lusala was involved, pushing on down the right and playing in to the feet of striker Sterling, who set up Richards to curl home on his left foot from the edge of the area, his shot flying in off the far post.
Whiteman made a smart stop from Olayinka at his near post after a lapse in concentration in defence but his clean sheet didn’t come under serious threat thanks to the committed play going on in front of him, the experienced Sterling dropping deep, sometimes as far as our own box, to help out in defence, with the superb Dilan Markanday a willing runner to keep us pushing forward whenever we had the ball. Another White free-kick sailed over everyone in the box and dropped inches wide of the far post before Markanday embarked on a weaving run into the box from the right, but was denied by Hein at his near post with eight minutes left.
Wayne hails team effort
Under-23s Coach Wayne Burnett saw plenty of positives in our display: “There were some outstanding individual performances,” he said. “I don’t really want to single out anyone as overall it was a really good team effort, and as a team we defended very well. I thought we managed the game well, we were going to be under pressure because they’ve got some good players but I thought we defended as a team with resilience, we were competitive and credit to the players and everyone involved today because I felt we deserved to win.
“I didn’t think there was much in the game. We played with intent, with purpose, maybe we could have had a penalty or two in the first half, J’Neil went through one-on-one, so we had some chances, but saying that, they had some chances in the first half as well. I thought it was an even game, the wind was a bit of a factor in the second half but overall we slightly edged it. There were some very good performances.”
Arsenal 0-1 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Arsenal: Hein, Oyegoke, Bola, Clarke, Ballard (c), Akinola (Azeez 79), Girjan (McEneff 59), Olayinka, Balogun, Cottrell, Lewis (Alebiosu 72). Substitutes (not used): Okonk, Dinzeyi.
Spurs: Whiteman, Lusala (Omole (Tr) 67), Lavinier (Tr), White, Okedina (c), Lyons-Foster, Pochettino (Thorpe 73), Richards (Etete 86), Sterling, Markanday, Bennett. Substitute (not used): Oluwayemi.
Goal: Spurs – Richards 61.
Yellow card: Arsenal – Clarke 48.
Referee: Sukhvir Gill.
Venue: Arsenal Training Ground, London Colney.
Weather: Bright, 14 degrees.