Goals from Donyell Malen, Joe Willock and Daniel Ballard were not enough for Arsenal u18s to finish their season with a home victory over London rivals West Ham.
Chelsea’s win against Reading on Friday evening meant that they’d already been crowned champions, so Kwame Ampadu’s side didn’t have much to lose. But this result typified the Young Guns’ campaign, promising but ultimately coming up short when it really mattered at youth level.
Arsenal u18s (4-2-3-1): Crean; Osei-Tutu, Ballard, Medley, T. Bola; Dasilva, Gilmour; Burton, J. Willock, Dragomir; Malen. Unused subs: Virginia, Beckford.
Having taken the lead on two different occasions, Arsenal failed to hold on for a victory with Anthony Scully’s late strike ensuring both teams had to share the spoils at London Colney.
West Ham started poorly in the first-half and Arsenal could’ve been two or three goals up by the interval. Rosaire Longelo forced a good save from Alex Crean but Donyell Malen’s composed finish in the area helped break the deadlock after half an hour.
The visitors pegged one back after Jahmal Hector-Ingram was hauled down in the area. Korrey Henry sent Crean the wrong way to equalise from the resulting spot-kick.
Arsenal restored their slender advantage after the break when Ben Wells fouled Malen inside the area. Joe Willock made no mistake from the spot, netting his 7th league goal of the campaign in the process.
A scrappy finish and Ampadu’s side had a solid two-goal cushion after Ballard found space to strike inside the box from a corner. But West Ham were eager to recover and did just that in dramatic circumstances.
England u16 captain Aji Alese netted a brilliant goal to reduce the deficit but Scully applied the finishing touch from range after some patient build-up play in midfield. Substitute Bernardo Rosa won the ball back before playing a one-two with fellow sub Yiannis Constantinou, then releasing a screaming Scully to shoot from distance on the left-hand side.
Crean was helpless to save the effort as it flew into the bottom corner from 25 yards out, but it was another winnable fixture that Arsenal had squandered.
Frustrating as it is, it’s important that the u18s look to build on a good but far from perfect league campaign.