Arsenal u23s suffered a frustrating defeat late on during the penultimate fixture of this season’s Premier League 2 campaign.
An 87th minute winner, courtesy of substitute, Luke Molyneux, was enough to seal all three points for Saturday’s hosts – their first league win of the calendar year.
Injuries to Reiss Nelson and Edward Nketiah meant the u23s were not at full strength. Nonetheless, there was plenty of quality within the side and Joe Willock was given his debut at this level, playing alongside older brother, Chris.
Chiori Johnson and Joseph Olowu returned to the starting eleven whilst Marcus McGuane partnered Ainsley Maitland-Niles in a holding midfield duo.
The u23s’ team (4-2-3-1): Keto; Johnson, Olowu, Sheaf, Bramall; McGuane, Maitland-Niles; Dasilva, J. Willock (Dragomir, 82′), C. Willock; Malen (Fortune, 82′).
Goalkeeper Hugo Keto was called into action on a few occasions, having to deny Joel Asoro twice in quick succession whilst Ethan Robson and Rees Greenwood also came close.
Maitland-Niles stung the palms of Max Stryjek with a fierce effort from range but Sunderland enjoyed the majority of opportunities in the first-half.
Arsenal improved at the start of the second and unsurprisingly, Malen broke the deadlock just ten minutes after the restart, following good work in the build-up by Maitland-Niles. Squeezing past both of the hosts’ centre-backs, he kept a composed head to finish into the bottom corner.
Having started well, Sunderland were determined not to succumb to another defeat and were resilient when it mattered most. Despite Keto’s best efforts, Lndon Gooch levelled the scoring and the hosts found themselves in the ascendancy.
Arsenal’s backline were continuously tested in the latter stages and Sunderland’s inclusion of fresh legs made things all the more tiresome.
Molyneux, fresh off the substitutes bench, raced goalwards after a long clearance upfield by Robson saw him through on-goal before firing low underneath Keto to snatch all three points.
Molyneux, who had only just come on as a substitute, latched onto a long clearance from Robson and composed himself well before firing under Keto.
It was undoubtedly a frustrating end to a winnable game from Arsenal’s perspective and they’ll be hoping to avoid similar fate when hosting Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium next month in the league’s final fixture this term.
Tickets for this game are available FREE for Arsenal members and season ticket holders, with more information available on Arsenal.com