Second-half goals from Trae Coyle and Yassin Fortune weren’t enough to stop Arsenal u18s from suffering a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Fulham on Saturday morning.
A win would’ve taken Arsenal up into third place in the Barclays u18 Premier League South table as West Ham lost 1-0 at home against Norwich City, but it was a case of missed opportunities from Kwame Ampadu’s side.
Plenty of youngsters within the Academy ranks left for pastures new with loan spells across Europ. As a result, the u18s were not at full strength for this fixture.
The likes of Josh DaSilva, Vlad Dragomir, Donyell Malen and top goalscorer Edward Nketiah are all expected to feature against league leaders Everton in Premier League 2 on Monday evening. They were rested for this game.
Despite this though, it’s no excuse for the u18s to have been trailing in the manner they were. Kostas Pileas scored an own goal, diverting Joe Felix’s low cross goalwards past a helpless Alex Crean in-between the posts. Michael Elstone made matters worse shortly afterward.
Driving straight at Daniel Ballard, the 18-year-old forward weaved his way past before shooting across goal. The effort bounced in, off the post and the game was slipping away from the Young Guns – who had done well initially to weather an early storm of Fulham pressure.
Felix gave the hosts a welcome three-goal advantage from the penalty spot. Isaac Pearce was hauled down in the area and despite Arsenal’s best efforts to get back into proceedings, they knew the match was slipping away from them.
Despite his well-documented injury issues in recent months, Yassin Fortune has shown individual brilliance since joining Arsenal. He called upon his ability to create something out of nothing, handing the visitors a route back into the encounter on the hour mark.
Weaving his way past a number of Fulham players down the left, he struck hard and low past goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond into the bottom corner to reduce the deficit.
Arsenal grew in confidence and the momentum was fully on their side. It became much more of an open affair with both sides creating chances. After being teed up by substitute Tyreece John-Jules, Coyle curled an effort into the top corner with just under ten minutes to play.
Despite this, Fulham managed to hang on for all three points during a match where Arsenal u18s should’ve got some sort of result. Their next league fixture is an away clash against Norwich City, who are currently in 7th place on 24 points and could prove another tricky test like this one.
Arsenal: Crean; Osei-Tutu, Medley, Ballard (Omole, 84′), Pileas; Gilmour, J. Willock; Beckford (Thompson, 77′), Burton, Coyle; Fortune (John-Jules 63′). Unused: Barden (GK)