Arsenal U21s will be playing in the highest level of youth football again next season after defeating Aston Villa U21 today in the playoff final today 3-1 at the Emirates.
Arsenal fielded a strong side for this match with first-teamers Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, and Joel Campbell all starting. Despite this, Aston Villa actually took the lead through a Rushian Hepburn-Murphy header in the 10th minute. Arsenal responded strongly with Cazorla and Coquelin both narrowly missing just wide.
They leveled proceedings in the 36th minute as Stephy Mavididi, set free by a lofted Coquelin pass, cut the ball back to an onrushing Chris Willock who made no mistake from 8 yards out. It was the youngster's 3rd goal in 2 matches and there would be more to come.
Arsenal took the lead in the 64th minute when Willock dribbled past his man on the left flank and lofted a left-footed cross which Mavididi nestled into the bottom corner. The match was put beyond doubt in the 87th minute when JEFF Reine-Adelaide burst through Aston Villa's half and found Willock in space. The English youngster played his compatriot Mavididi through on goal and the striker's left-footed effort was perfectly placed past the keeper.
It was an overall thrilling encounter with end-to-end play. Aston Villa's youngsters acquitted themselves far better than their senior counterparts have all season. They had a couple of penalty shouts in the second half that were waved off by the official, including a Coquelin handball in the box that was generously not given.
With their win, Arsenal U21 is back in Division 1 of the U21 Premier League, facing off against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, and others.