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UEFA Youth League: Arsenal U19 1-2 Anderlecht U19

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Young Gunners fall at home in UEFA Youth League action.

Oleg Nikishin

0-1 Bastien 5'
1-1 Crowley 22'
1-2 Vancamp 74'

Arsenal's U19s could not get the job done against Anderlecht U19s in London yesterday, placing their chances to advance to the knockout round of the UEFA Youth League in jeopardy.

Arsenal began the day tied with Anderlecht and Galatasaray's U19s with 6 points through 3 matches. The Young Gunners had lost 4-3 to Anderlecht in Belgium and were looking for revenge on English soil.

Frans de Kat put out a strong, attacking lineup with a double pivot of Gedion Zelalem and Ainsley Maitland-Niles covering for an attacking 4 of skipper Alex Iwobi, Daniel Crowley, Chris Willock, and Stephy Mavididi. Stefan O'Connor and George Dobson anchored the center of defense with Tafari Moore at right back and Marc Bola at left back. Ryan Huddart, who was on the bench for Arsenal's senior side in their last match versus Anderlecht, started in goal.

Arsenal started the match brightly, dominating possession early, only to concede first. Anderlecht's left back, Alexis Scholl, burst down the flank, got his cross past Zelalem and Maitland-Niles to Bastien who cut inside and blasted it past Huddart.

Anderlecht continued to put pressure on the Arsenal defense, as the midfield of Zelalem and Maitland-Niles offered little resistance.

Crowley was very bright throughout the first half, creating chances and putting in dangerous free kicks, so it was right that he was the one to bring Arsenal level. In the twenty-second minute, Willock cut in from the left and played a give and go with Crowley which the diminutive playmaker buried into the bottom corner. The assist from Willock was an impudent backheel, making it a true Arsenal™ goal.

Crowley suffered a knock on his ankle near the end of the first half and looked like he might not be able to continue. However, he did come out to start the second half, with his wrist and pinky finger wrapped up.

Arsenal were off throughout the second half, struggling to put passes together in the attacking third, while Anderlecht continued to be dangerous on the counter. The first twenty-five minutes or so of the second half were tame, especially compared to the up and down flow of the match in the first half.

Huddart did well on a couple of occasions to parry away Anderlecht efforts after poor defending from Arsenal. Unfortunately, he would be to blame for Anderlecht's second. Scholl again was given too much space down the left flank and his cross was not dealt with well by Huddart, who could only push it as far as Vancamp's head, two feet away. The Anderlecht striker accepted this gracious gift by heading the ball into the back of the net.

Arsenal tried to put pressure on Anderlecht to level proceedings by bringing on Aaron Eyoma and Tyrell Robinson late, but only managed to create one real chance from open play. After some good work from Iwobi down the right flank, Crowley played a give and go with the skipper, only for his shot from 5 yards out to be saved by the outstretched leg of Anderlecht's keeper.

Arsenal did have two chances from dead ball situations to score, but Crowley's wonderful free kicks did not receive the end product they deserved. On the first, no one was able to get onto Dobson's header back across goal. On the second, Dobson's header in the ninetieth minute from 5 yards out was so tame the Anderlecht keeper was able to calmly go across goal and pick it up comfortably.

Anderlecht U19s now top the group with 9 points with 2 matches remaining. Dortmund U19s got off the schneid today with a win over Galatasaray U19. Arsenal and Galatasaray have 6 points and Dortmund has 3.

Random Thoughts:

- Zelalem and Maitland-Niles in a double pivot together is much like the Aaron Ramsey/Jack Wilshere double pivot. Offers a lot in passing fluidity and attacking, but struggles with defensive positioning. The pair was overwhelmed today defensively and neither had their finest game offensively. Zelalem in particular was woeful in the first half, in large part because he kept slipping down. Each were guilty of being too cute in their attempts to play it out of the back, though luckily Arsenal were not punished for it.

- Crowley was dominant in the first half, but struggled to make an impact in open play in the second. I do not think his ankle was 100%.

- Mavididi was largely anonymous in the match. He's shown he can score goals at the U18 level, but struggled with link up play today.

- Willock was one of the bright spots, along with Crowley. He turns and wriggles free from his defender quite well.