Arsenal overcame Fulham with a 3-0 victory to ensure they’d finish top of the U18 Premier League south division on Saturday, setting up a playoff final against the northern champion.
Going into the final game of the season, Arsenal knew a win would be enough to secure top spot in their division. However, any dropped points could end up being punished, with Tottenham Hotspur just one point behind.
That set up a tense match, with the u18s having plenty of chances but lacking the composure to put them away. Then the news filtered through that Tottenham had taken the lead, only adding to the pressure.
Arsenal almost ended up conceding the opener with 15 minutes to go, as they only barely managed to clear an indirect free-kick from inside the box.
Thankfully, Vontae Daley-Campbell then popped up as the most unlikely scorer of Arsenal’s opening goal, with 13 minutes to go. The right-back didn’t have a single goal in all competitions for the season up until that point, but he picked the moment to score his first perfectly.
The floodgates opened, and Sam Greenwood set up Folarin Balogun to score three minutes later, before Trae Coyle made it 3-0 in injury time. The trio all deserved their goal contributions, as each of them has been excellent in recent months.
Perhaps upon hearing that Arsenal had achieved their victory, Tottenham’s u18s promptly collapsed, blowing their 3-1 lead in 12 second-half minutes to lose 4-3 to Leicester. As a result, the young Gunners finished the season four points clear of their North London rivals.
The one negative of the day was a late injury to Ben Cottrell, who has been influential in midfield recently. We’ll have to wait and see how serious it is.
There’s a one-off match between the winner of the south division and the north division to decide the overall champions. Right now, Derby’s u18s are top in the north, having won their final game on Saturday.
However, Liverpool are six points (and 11 goals) behind with two games in hand. If they did manage to win both matches heavily, they could still face Arsenal in the final. Extremely unlikely, but it can’t be ruled out for good until after their matches against Manchester City (30th April) and Middlesbrough (4th May).
After 4th May, we should find out the details of the playoff final. For now, congratulations to the u18s on what they’ve achieved so far!