Arsenal made it two wins in two UEFA Youth League matches this season thanks to two goals from captain Julio Pleguezuelo in an open, exciting match today.
Olympiakos started out the brighter of the sides as they had a shot off Hugo Keto's post within the first minute of action. Arsenal were sluggish early, as Ben Sheaf, Krystian Bielik, and Pleguezuelo gave the ball away cheaply. Olympiakos eventually put this pressure to good effect as Georgios Manthatis scored in the seventh minute. The Greek attacker ghosted past Bielik, who looked lost at CB for stretches of the entire half, and fired low at Keto. The Finnish keeper got a hand to it, but the ball bounced into the back of the net.
The goal seemed to kickstart Arsenal who immediately took control of the proceedings. Chris Willock, the star of the first half for Arsenal, began to influence proceedings. He earned a number of free kicks in dangerous areas which allowed Sheaf to showcase his deadball prowess. Alex Iwobi barely got his head to Sheaf's first, excellent delivery but Bielik could not react quickly enough to tap it in. Sheaf's second delivery was again dangerous, which forced Olympiakos to play it out for a corner. It was then, in the fourteenth minute, that Arsenal leveled proceedings. Sheaf whipped in a deep corner which was controlled deftly by Pleguezuelo and dispatched into the back of the net with aplomb.
Arsenal continued to be on top throughout the majority of the first half, but struggled at times with their attacking fluidity. Olympiakos were dangerous on the counter and Keto was not particularly convincing.
Arsenal started quickly in the second half and in no time were on top. Savvas Mourgos did some nice work on the right side and teed up Kaylen Hinds who went down (easily, it must be said) in the box after his arm was grabbed by a Greek defender. Sheaf sent the keeper the wrong way and the Gunners were a goal to the good.
However, like Olympiakos in the first half, Arsenal did not hold onto the lead for long. The visitors scored a brilliant goal in the fiftieth minute as Georgios Androutsos hammered a volleyed past Keto to tie it up.
Arsenal eventually took the lead for good in the sixty-second minute and once again it was the centerback, Pleguezuelo, getting on the scoresheet. The La Masia-trained prospect slipped while trying to free himself on a corner, which, if unintended, was successful. Once free, the Spaniard hammered the corner past the keeper on a half-volley. It was a terrific bit of skill from the captain.
The remaining thirty minutes was as disjointed as the rest of the match, but none of the dangerous moments led to goals. The biggest highlight of the final half hour, from an Arsenal perspective, was the introduction of Dutch striker Donyell Malen, making his first appearance for the club after a summer move from Ajax.
Sheaf and Pleguezuelo were overall Arsenal's top performers today. Sheaf was consistently dangerous with his set piece delivery and Pleggy, of course, fired home two goals. It was not as great a day for Bielik and Iwobi. The former looked terribly uncomfortable at centerback, and was replaced by Stefan O'Connor late on. It was not the latter's day either as none of his forays forward ended up coming off. Willock was the impetus of the Arsenal attack in the first half but faded in the second. Stephy Mavididi, and Malen after him, were isolated up front. Tough to judge their contributions due to their lack of service. Keto, who looked woeful in the first half, was a much more confident figure in the second.
Arsenal are on top of the group with 6 points from 2 matches. Dinamo Zagreb defeated Bayern Munich's U19 side today as well, meaning Arsenal is 3 points clear of their Croatian and Greek rivals and 6 points clear of the German champions' U19 side.