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Derby woe for 10-man Under-18s

Arsenal 4-1 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Sat 27 August 2022, 14:01|Tottenham Hotspur

The damage was done in the first half as our Under-18s suffered a hugely disappointing 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday.

It was all too easy for Gunners forward Omari Benjamin as he helped himself to a 20-minute hat-trick amid a below-par start from our point of view, our misery compounded when left-back Jahziah Linton was shown two quick yellow cards and a consequent red just before the interval as an unusually tame derby display finally produced a flash point.

Already missing a number of players through injury, including key midfielders Rio Kyerematen and Billy Heaps, we reshuffled and reshaped at half-time and gave it a good go despite the disadvantage in numbers, Damola Ajayi pulling a goal back from fellow substitute Mikey Moore’s corner on 63 minutes. But the Gunners soon responded through Ethan Nwaneri and went on to enjoy the better of the closing stages as they comfortably claimed the points at London Colney.

Benjamin needed only five minutes to give his side the lead, sending a swirling shot high into the net from the edge of the box before beating the advancing Luca Gunter at his right-hand post for 2-0 in the 18th minute. And just six minutes later, he had his hat-trick as he strolled through and fired into the far corner from the right angle inside the box.

Striker Jaden Williams, who had played a large chunk of the second half for our Under-21s against Liverpool just 16 hours earlier, had a couple of attempts either side of the third goal but couldn’t get enough on either one, while Gunter made a good stop to prevent Benjamin from adding to his haul at the other end before a late tackle on Williams in the lead-up to half-time gave the action a spark – Yusuf Akhamrich was denied one-on-one by Arsenal goalkeeper Alexei Rojas Fedorushchenko as play continued, Linton then flew into a challenge on Harrison Dudziak and both sets of players subsequently came together, the referee booking Linton for his challenge and then immediately brandishing a second yellow for the full-back’s involvement in the melee. Maldini Kacurri of Arsenal was also cautioned.

The introduction of another centre-back in Archie Chaplin at the break helped to shore things up as he slotted in alongside the ever-committed Alfie Dorrington, while George Abbott moved from right-back into midfield. Gunter had to make a sharp save down to his right to prevent an own goal as we tried to defend a driven low cross into our box in the opening exchanges of the second period but there was clearly more of a sense of fight and purpose from the players and we deservedly got a goal back shortly after the hour mark when Ajayi met the impressive Moore’s corner with a first-time shot that flew high into the net.

But the hosts restored their three-goal cushion seven minutes later when Nwaneri converted from inside the box after an initial good save from Gunter, who subsequently kept out Seb Ferdinand’s effort before seeing another Nwaneri attempt cannon off the foot of the post as Arsenal tried without success to add to the scoreline.

Arsenal 4-1 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Gunter (c), Abbott, Linton, Dorrington, Andiyapan, Hall (Chaplin 46), McKnight, Olusesi (Owen 86), Williams (Ajayi 52), Black (Moore 61), Akhamrich (Irow 46).