Arsenal u18s have been knocked out of this year’s FA Youth Cup after a surprise 1-0 defeat in the third round of the prestigious competition.
Talented winger, Reiss Nelson, was sent off for his part in a first half brawl and although his teammates worked hard in his absence, the visitors took full advantage of the numerical advantage by breaking the deadlock courtesy of Daniel Butterworth after 78 minutes.
Despite the absence of both Charlie Gilmour and Yassin Fortune, Kwame Ampadu fielded a strong side with the likes of Vlad Dragomir, Marcus McGuane and Emile Smith-Rowe all starting from the offset.
A number of rash challenges were made in the opening exchanges and one particular foul was the unwelcome catalyst for a brawl to begin. Nelson was given his marching orders and the Young Guns were forced to play the remainder of the encounter at an immediate disadvantage.
Dragomir, Josh daSilva and Edward Nketiah all had efforts on goal as they aimed to take the lead, but Blackburn’s physical approach was effective and caused plenty of issues after the half time interval.
Joao Virginía was forced into a number of saves throughout, including a double stop in quick succession to keep his clean sheet intact.
Emile Smith-Rowe was one of Arsenal’s standout players on the evening but he was surprisingly taken off in place of Nathan Tella, which seemed bizarre given the circumstances – added to the fact that they were still in search of the all-important goal.
It didn’t arrive for Ampadu’s youngsters and instead, Butterworth wheeled away in jubilation after heading home, knowing fully well that his goal could prove to be the winner.
Despite a late charge to try and force the tie to go into extra time, Arsenal’s talented youngsters had been defeated. The first time at this stage since their 1-0 (AET) defeat against Derby County in 2011, it was an underwhelming result and one which sees silverware potential for the remainder of the campaign squandered.
Plenty of the players who started the game, including the aforementioned midfield duo of McGuane and Dragomir, will be ineligible to feature in the competition next season.
Having crashed out of the UEFA Youth League earlier this month, it’s clear that the highly-esteemed academy is having a forgettable end to what has been a promising year in 2016.