Arsenal’s u19s won the second game of the Dallas Cup group stage on Monday, but they still need results to go their way to qualify for the semi-finals.
Arsenal started a much-changed side for their second game in two days, after falling to a 3-1 defeat to CF Monterrey Rayados in their opening fixture. Youth loanee James Hillson made his Arsenal debut in goal, with the likes of Bayli Spencer-Adams and Kido Taylor-Hart making their first appearances in the competition.
Sam Greenwood was one of a few who started both matches, and he went close with a couple of free-kicks in the early stages. His record from set-pieces has been excellent this campaign, creating plenty of chances and scoring a fair number as well, but it wasn’t to be on this occasion.
Real Salt Lake ended up taking the lead midway through the first half, after a fortunate bounce opened up space for a shot on the edge of the box, with the ball squirming underneath Hillson and into the net. It wasn’t the best start for the loanee, though the incredibly windy conditions may have played a part.
It didn’t take long for the u19s to draw level though, with Alfie Matthews and Sam Greenwood linking up nicely before a poor defensive clearance presented Matthews with the chance to head home.
After half-time, Arsenal took the lead through impressive 16-year-old Kido Taylor-Hart, who put away a rebound after his first attempt was saved. Captain Matt Smith made the initial chance, as he continues to display a lot of creativity from midfield this season.
Unfortunately, the Gunners were then pegged back to 2-2 after a quick counter-attack. After losing their first game, only a win would be enough to keep their tournament hopes alive, so they had to find a third goal in the final 25 minutes.
Trae Coyle, Ben Cottrell and Miguel Azeez came on in search of that winner, as well as Nathan Butler-Oyedeji, a 16-year-old who is yet to feature for the Arsenal u18s.
However, Hillson had to make a great save at the other end to keep the scores level with just over 10 minutes left. He’ll be a little disappointed with the goals he conceded, but he did make a few good stops as well on his debut.
With under five minutes to go, it was the most inexperienced player on the pitch who ended up making the difference. Butler-Oyedeji picked up the ball on the left-hand side, beat his man and fired a left-footed shot across the goalkeeper. Cottrell made sure it crossed the line by blocking an attempted last-ditch clearance, so he’ll claim the goal.
There was a bit of a scrap at the end of the game, after the Real Salt Lake goalkeeper shoved Greenwood and the Arsenal forward raised his foot in response (without making any contact). Fortunately, the only punishment from the ensuing brawl between the two sides was a booking for Greenwood, and the final whistle followed soon afterwards.
Starting Lineup vs Real Salt Lake: Hillson; Dennis, McGuinness, Spencer-Adams, Ogungbo; Flaherty, Smith, Musah, Taylor-Hart; Greenwood, Matthews
Substitutes: Swanson (for Dennis), Coyle (for Matthews), Cottrell (for Flaherty), Butler-Oyedeji (for Taylor-Hart)
Arsenal will face Toronto FC in their final group game, but their fate is somewhat out of their hands.
To briefly explain the format, there are three groups of four who all play each other round-robin style. The group winners advance to the semi-final, along with the best second-placed team between the three groups.
In Arsenal’s group, Monterrey have won both their matches, so a point against Real Salt Lake will be enough for them to finish first. That leaves Arsenal needing to win against Toronto and hope that no other team betters their six-point haul.
At this stage, with many teams only having played one game, there are too many permutations to say if that’s likely.
Meanwhile, fellow English side Liverpool are already practically eliminated, after losing their first two games. They would need a huge win and every result in every group to go their way from now on to advance.