Keown 0-1 8'
Despite the presence of three first-teamers, Arsenal U-21s lost at home today to Reading U-21s 1-0.
Long-term injured players Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, and Serge Gnabry all featured for the youth side in an attempt to regain form and fitness for this crucial stretch run. Alex Iwobi started at striker for the young Gunners with January signee Krystian Bielik starting at centerback.
Arsenal started proceedings as the brighter of the two sides, dominating possession early with only a Daniel Crowley overhit volley to show for it.
Reading quickly took the lead off a corner with Niall Keown, son of former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, rising over Stefan O'Connor to head it home.
Arsenal continued to dominate possession throughout the first half, with few chances to show for it, while Reading looked dangerous on the counter. Arsenal's two best chances of the half came through their senior stars as Gnabry fired a left-footed laser that was well saved and Jack jinked into the box only to see his fierce effort from 8 yards out parried over the crossbar.
The second half was more one-sided than the first in terms of possession, but Reading still looked exceedingly dangerous on the counter. The Gunners largely laid siege to the Reading box, but were stifled by a well-organized back line. Wilshere and Daniel Crowley spearheaded a number of runs into the box, only to see each one peter out at the last moment.
Bielik was forced to come off in the 54th minute due to injury, replaced by George Dobson who was not at all convincing. Reading should have had a penalty in the 70th minute as Dobson clattered into an attacker. They also had a great chance to kill the match off in the 90th minute as Dobson lost his marker, but Matt Macey made a good close range save.
In the end, Arsenal simply could not break through a tough Reading defense. Other than a very good Iwobi chance which began from a brilliant run and backheel from Wilshere, Arsenal never looked like they were going to score in spite of all their possession.
The night was a mixed bag for the Arsenal senior players. Diaby was removed after 55 anonymous minutes. Wilshere and Gnabry both had bright moments, but neither could quite find their final ball. Both looked better in the second half, Jack in particular, but they could not quite connect. The player of the match for Arsenal was none of the senior players, but rather Crowley, who looked the most dangerous of all the Arsenal youngsters with the ball.
The result leaves Arsenal U-21s perilously close to staying in Division 2 of the Barclays U-21 Premier League as they are stuck in fourth place.