Khayon Edwards returned from injury but couldn’t stop the Arsenal u21s from slipping to defeat to Crystal Palace on Friday.
Sloppy first half and penalty miss
In a bit of a sloppy first half, both teams struggled to get a foothold in the contest, conceding possession too easily and taking a lot of risks at the back.
At first, Palace looked the more likely to capitalise on those errors, but it was Arsenal who had the first big chance from the penalty spot.
In the 19th minute, Ben Cottrell slipped a nice pass through to Omari Benjamin, who went down under a challenge in the box for a spot-kick.
Unfortunately, Matt Smith’s effort was saved, after some delaying tactics from the Palace defenders on the edge of the box.
Despite the penalty miss, Arsenal seemed to take heart from winning the spot-kick in the first place, and they had a spell of possession in good areas after that.
But hitting the Gunners on the break, Palace had the next big chance with a shot on the spin just outside the six-yard box, which went wide.
Palace take the lead
Just as it looked like the two teams might go in level at half-time, Palace took the lead. An early cross from Tayo Adaramola fell to Ademola Ola-Adebomi on the volley, and the striker guided his effort into the corner.
Triple Substitution: Khayon Edwards returns
Arsenal made a triple substitution at half-time, with Khayon Edwards being the most notable introduction after his spell on the sidelines with injury, replacing Benjamin.
James Sweet and Catalin Cirjan were also introduced, coming on for Reuell Walters and Mauro Bandeira.
The Gunners had the first big chance after the break, with a clever set-piece leading to Amario Cozier-Duberry crossing in for Zane Monlouis at close range, but the centre-back’s header went wide.
Joel Ideho then had a free-kick effort saved, after a nice run from Lino Sousa ended as he was brought down on the edge of the box.
Arsenal really should have been level after that, as Ideho played Cottrell in on goal. But with only the goalkeeper to beat and Edwards waiting in the middle for a square ball, Cottrell blazed his shot over.
Palace punished Arsenal moments later, with Ola-Adebomi bagging his second against the run of play for 2-0.
Late efforts fail to change the scoreline
Once again, Arsenal had a huge chance to score their first of the game immediately after that. Ideho played in Smith, whose shot was saved and fell to Cozier-Duberry a few yards out.
The winger’s first effort on the rebound was blocked by one defender, and his second was blocked by another. On this occasion, it was more about excellent defending from Palace than wastefulness from Arsenal.
But despite Arsenal introducing another forward in Charles Sagoe Jr late on, the Gunners couldn’t build on that momentum.
Edwards did look to have got in behind at one stage, after linking up well with Cottrell, but a last-ditch challenge just stole the ball off his foot as he made to finish.
One more late free-kick for Cozier-Duberry sailed over the bar, and Palace took the three points.
Arsenal u21s vs Crystal Palace lineups
Graczyk, Walters, Monlouis, Awe, Sousa, Smith, Cottrell, Bandeira, Cozier-Duberry, Ideho, Benjamin
Sweet (for Walters, 46), Cirjan (for Bandeira, 46), Edwards (for Benjamin, 46), Cooper, Sagoe Jr
What’s next for Arsenal u21s?
The Arsenal u21s are next in action against Blackburn Rovers away from home on Saturday, March 25th at 13:00 GMT.
Before that, the u18s face Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, March 18th, and it’s not impossible early substitute Omari Benjamin could be involved in that game.