The Arsenal u18s kicked off their league season in dramatic style with a 5-3 win over Aston Villa, and Marcelo Flores was the star of the show.
Arsenal didn’t necessarily have the easiest of starts to their u18 Premier League season, given the Aston Villa u18s won the FA Youth Cup just a few months ago. There was obviously a bit of turnover from that side, though the same was true for Arsenal.
The Gunners gave Amario Cozier-Duberry his first u18 competitive start, but it was a couple of the more experienced members of the side that gave Arsenal the lead in the 21st minute, with Mauro Bandeira setting up Marcelo Flores for 1-0.
Though Flores had a couple of injury absences holding him back in the second half of last season, there were no doubts about his fitness here, as he set up Khayon Edwards for a second goal seven minutes later.
With the game already threatening to get away from Villa, they responded in the best way possible with a goal of their own on the half-hour mark from Taylor Jay-Hart.
Arsenal reasserted their dominance on the match five minutes before half-time, with a role reversal as Edwards set up Flores for a second goal. The young side went in at the break at 3-1.
The second half start in much the same way, with Charles Sagoe Jr adding a fourth for Arsenal in the 49th minute before Flores made it five, completing his hat-trick. This time he was assisted by James Sweet.
Credit to Villa, as they didn’t give up despite the four-goal deficit. Tommi O’Reilly and Kahrel Reddin sparked hopes of a comeback with goals in the 62nd and 68th minutes. Unfortunately for them, Arsenal didn’t let it go any further.
U18 boss Dan Micciche made a few changes, with Amani Richards, Josh Robinson, and Elian Quesada-Thorn coming on for Sagoe Jr, Cozier-Duberry, and Edwards respectively. The game was then really killed off by an 87th-minute Jay-Hart red card for Villa, and it ended 5-3.
The scoreline perhaps didn’t entirely reflect Arsenal’s dominance in the end, having 24 shots to Villa’s 12 and 12 on target to Villa’s six. The victory and the three points were certainly deserved.
With three goals and an assist, the signs are certainly there for Flores to have a big season if he can stay fit. You can see why Mexico and Canada are in a battle for his future. He’ll likely end up playing more of a part for the u23s as the campaign goes on.
Next up, the Arsenal u18s travel to West Brom on Saturday, 21st August.
Arsenal u18 Lineup vs Aston Villa
Mitchell (GK); Walters (c), Henry-Francis, Foran, Jeffcott; Bandeira, Sagoe Jr, Sweet; Cozier-Duberry, Edwards, Flores
Kovacevic, Roberts, Richards (for Sagoe Jr, 68), Robinson (for Cozier-Duberry, 76), Quesada-Thorn (for Edwards, 84)