Arsenal u23s were beaten 3-1 by Chelsea on Friday night, suffering their first defeat of the Premier League 2 campaign to the division leaders.
Chelsea dominated the opening 45 minutes, but in the very early stages, it was Arsenal with all the chances. Folarin Balogun had three shots in the first 10 minutes, before the hosts had really had an opportunity.
Unfortunately, that was a false dawn and Chelsea had most of the best opportunities for the remainder of the half.
The hosts took the lead through Charlie Brown, running straight through the middle without any Arsenal defenders picking him up. They doubled that lead with a deflected effort after a set piece for 2-0.
Arsenal did manage to find a glimmer of hope just before half-time though, with the dangerous Balogun firing a shot across the goalkeeper, who could only palm it out for Ben Cottrell to tap in. It was the least those two deserved after a positive individual half for both.
After the break, Arsenal came out fast and had a few chances. Trae Coyle should have made it 2-2 after being played through by Balogun, before the striker could have had a penalty trying to get a touch ahead of a committed goalkeeper.
Once again, those near-misses came back to haunt Arsenal, as yet another cross and header led to a Chelsea third. It was a great ball by Billy Gilmour to Brown, but still indicative of the real struggles the Gunners have defensively in the air.
Arsenal were awarded a penalty not long afterwards, but it was quickly overturned for an offside. Zak Swanson then had a powerful effort well saved by the Chelsea goalkeeper.
That was the last real opportunity for either side, and the match finished 3-1. A disappointing end to Arsenal’s unbeaten run but one that had been coming after a number of draws and very few clean sheets in recent months.
Balogun was undoubtedly Arsenal’s man of the match despite the result, causing Chelsea problems all night and suffering from wasteful teammates and inaccurate passes into his path.
The striker absolutely deserves to be involved in Unai Emery’s first-team squad if Arsenal can wrap up the Europa League group with time to spare, or even before that if possible.