The Arsenal u21s were unfortunate to drop out of the EFL Trophy on Tuesday night, despite a spirited performance away to Stevenage.
After reaching the EFL Trophy knockout rounds with Nathan Butler-Oyedeji winning the Player of the Group Stage award, Arsenal took on Stevenage on Tuesday night with Butler-Oyedeji starting up front.
The young striker didn’t take long to get his fourth goal in four games in the competition, tapping home after just six minutes.
Charles Sagoe Jr had won the ball high up the field, and when his shot was saved by the Stevenage goalkeeper it fell to Amario Cozier-Duberry, who flicked up a leg to play it into Butler-Oyedeji’s path for a simple finish.
After that, Arsenal spent much of the first half on the back foot, with Stevenage hitting the side netting with a close-range header, missing a sitter with the net gaping, and putting a free-kick narrowly wide.
But the Gunners did have a few chances too, with Sagoe Jr having a shot smothered when one-on-one, and Cozier-Duberry shooting inches wide after expertly beating his man and cutting inside.
Still, at half-time you felt that Stevenage were inevitably going to score unless something changed in the second half, and so it proved.
In the 51st minute, Stevenage swung in a corner that bounced towards Arsenal goalkeeper Hubert Graczyk off one of his teammates.
The keeper made to grab the ball, but he got caught up with Matt Smith on the line, dropping the ball at the feet of David Amoo to equalise.
Arsenal responded well, with Butler-Oyedeji deserving a penalty after being brought down, before he almost scored with a flying header. But not too long after that, Stevenage had the lead.
The goal came from another set piece, swinging a free-kick into the six-yard box for an uncontested header from Dan Sweeney.
Once again, Arsenal rallied, and Cozier-Duberry was at the heart of an excellent equaliser.
Picking up the ball on the right, Cozier-Duberry feinted to leave a man on the ground, before playing a one-two with Mauro Bandeira. Cozier-Duberry then beat his man to get into the box before curling a shot into the far corner.
Just when it looked like Arsenal were back in the game, Arthur Read arrowed a shot from distance into the far corner for 3-2.
Arsenal kept pushing until the end, and they were frustrated to see another penalty claim waved away as substitute Joel Ideho had his legs kicked as he turned. But that was the last chance of the match, which finished 3-2 to Stevenage.
Final thoughts and highlights
Amario Cozier-Duberry was the Arsenal star of the night, causing problems whenever he had the chance to run at the opposition.
He ended up with a goal and an assist, but he was involved in other moments, such as with a nice bit of play in the build-up to the Joel Ideho penalty claim, and with his curled shot that went narrowly wide.
Arsenal fought hard and deserved more from the game, unlucky to lose conceding a screamer and following a freak goalkeeping error, but that’s the end of the competition for the Gunners.
Their focus will turn to the Premier League 2, the Premier League Cup, and the Premier League International Cup, where they’re top of the league or their group in every case.
Arsenal u21 lineup vs Stevenage
Graczyk, Walters, Foran, Awe, Sousa, M. Smith, Henry-Francis, Bandeira, Cozier-Duberry, Sagoe Jr, Butler-Oyedeji
Ideho (for Sagoe Jr, 66), Cirjan (for Henry-Francis, 78), Lewis-Skelly (for Walters, 78), Nwaneri (for Bandeira, 78), Hillson, Monlouis, Taylor-Hart
Arsenal return to the Premier League Cup for a match away to Swansea City on Saturday, November 26th at 14:00 GMT, their fourth game of the group stage after two wins and a draw so far.