February 24, 2013

23/02/13 Tottenham Hotspur U21s 4-2 Arsenal U21s, Training Centre

Jonathan Miles (19)
Nathan Byrne (20) Giancarlo Gallifuoco (19) Kevin Stewart (19) Zeki Fryers (20)
Milos Veljkovic (17)
Laste Dombaxe (17) Massimo Luongo (20)
Ken McEvoy (18) Dean Parrett (21) Jack Munns (19)

Subs:
Nabil Bentaleb (18) for Milos Veljkovic, 46.
Dominic Ball (17) for Kevin Stewart, 46.
Mason Bush (18) for Ken McEvoy, 74.

Unused subs:
Lawrence Vigouroux (19)
William Miller (16)

The game got off to a fairly frantic start, with Spurs dominating possession, and Arsenal looking to press in their defensive third and counter quickly.

Nathan Byrne helped to set the tempo with some pre-emptive challenges from a Spurs perspective, one of which was particularly tough. He won the ball directly in front of where I was stood and created an opportunity for Parrett to shoot, but his effort was blocked.

Veljkovic nearly picked a sublime pass inside the full-back to McEvoy but it was intercepted. Minutes later, McEvoy got free on the right and stood up a cross, with no forward there to meet it. Spurs were lacking the cutting edge that a natural striker might have offered.

Despite Spurs’ early domination, Akpom got through after Spurs were casual in possession – Veljkovic’s pass was intercepted, and Akpom outmuscled Gallifuoco. The forward had time to weigh up his options, but with just Miles to beat he rather tamely played it towards the centre of the net and Miles saved comfortably.

Veljkovic found Byrne with an accurate long ball – he, in turn, played in McEvoy, whose cross was blocked for a corner, which Parrett took – it was headed away at the front post, though.

Parrett hit a free kick (won by Dombaxe) into the wall, which led to another corner – this time claimed by Fabianski.

Arsenal took the lead when Luongo lost the ball, and Akpom found himself one on one again, this time making no mistake. Arsenal were playing counter-attacking football and looked dangerous, with Akpom the focal point.

Veljkovic gave the ball away, allowing Arsenal to get a cross in – Akpom cushioned a volley from Gnabry’s centre against the bar. It came back out to Ansah, from whom Miles made a good save with his legs. Ansah then had another chance, which he put wide. It really should have been 0-2.

Parrett burst down the Arsenal left midway through the first half, beat the fullback, and delivered a cross with the outside of his right foot. The ball fell to Munns, who couldn’t quite get enough power to turn it in, with defenders converging on him. At the other end, Ansah ghosted past Fryers as if he wasn’t there, but Veljkovic read his cross well and blocked it easily.

Half an hour in, Munns won the ball on the right and his persistence and quick feet created an opening, but Arsenal scrambled the ball to safety, with Dombaxe unable to get a clear shot away, and Veljkovic’s follow-up blocked.

The scores were level soon after, though, as Munns again cut in from the right and, as Arsenal struggled to clear the ball, it ended up at the feet of Fryers, the January signing, who calmly found the bottom left corner from the edge the box.

A moment later, another strong run from Munns ended with a foul from behind in the penalty area by Miquel, who has first team experience. Laste Dombaxe grabbed the ball from Dean Parrett and confidently sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot to put Spurs 2-1 up.

Munns then had a sharp shot after a neat turn, but it was straight at Fabianski.

Spurs made two changes for the second half – Nabil Bentaleb came on for Milos Veljkovic to play in the middle of midfield, and Dominic Ball replaced Kevin Stewart at the back, as Spurs started on the front foot. Fryers made good progress down theft, beating his man, and getting a low cross in, which was just between the players waiting in the box.

The game was frenetic, with both teams pressing and countering in search of the game’s third goal.

Gnabry burst forward for Arsenal and forced a good save from Jonathan Miles, but Spurs made it 3-1 moments later. A gloriously-weighted Nabil Bentaleb pass sent Kenny McEvoy wide down the right. His cross was half-cleared, but it fell kindly for Munns who finished low.

A Fryers cross-field pass created another opening for Spurs with Byrne progressing and driving at goal, but Fabianski saved for a corner.

Akpom made it 3-2 just after the hour, finishing calmly beyond Miles after Gallifuoco was carelessly robbed.

Bentaleb sent McEvoy wide again, but Munns got over-excited and was ahead of the ball as McEvoy’s cross came in – he couldn’t steer it goal-wards regardless.

Parrett and Sead Harjovic were involved in a squabble which earned them both yellow cards, but could easily have been two red cards. The ball went out for an Arsenal goal kick, and Parrett seemed to prevent Fabianski and Harjovic getting the ball down quickly to take it. Harjovic moved his head towards Parrett in an aggressive manner, that could easily have been perceived as a headbutt, and Parrett grabbed him by the throat in retaliation.

Far from putting Parrett off his stride, this incident only seemed to motivate him, as he burst through a couple of challenges and nearly created an opening minutes later. He then made another marauding run, this time finding Bentaleb whose shot was saved.

Jon Miles was nearly punished for a very poor kick, but made a fantastic recovery save, before Spurs went up the other end and made it 4-2. Parrett released substitute Mason Bush, and when his shot was saved, Munns was there to prod home from close range.

There was still time for two more good Arsenal chances; Akpom missed a guilt-edged opportunity, attempting to chip the ball goalwards – this allowed Byrne to get back and acrobatically hook it off the line. The resulting corner was headed on to the crossbar.

Overall, Spurs were creative but, despite scoring four, did miss a striker – they could have won more convincingly had they had a focal point. That said, Akpom was very wasteful for Arsenal and could have had four goals himself.

Jonathan Miles 6 – did the necessary but was a little weak with his kicking – one poor effort conceded a chance which he did very well to save.
Nathan Byrne 7 – a solid performance which saw him rarely beaten, and also break forward well in support.
Giancarlo Gallifuoco 5 – had an up and down game. Had problems with Akpom and was robbed of the ball by him for Arsenal’s second goal. His partnership with Stewart didn’t seem entirely comfortable, but he improved once Ball – a slightly more aggressive player – came on.
Kevin Stewart 5 – some good, some bad, but Akpom found space too easy to come by, and some of Stewart’s passing from the back was more erratic than usual.
Zeki Fryers 6 – my first look at Fryers as a Spurs player, and I was surprised that he was better going forward than he was at the back. A powerful figure (think Andre Santos), he got forward well, but was a little naive defensively at times.
Milos Veljkovic 5 – made some good early long-range passes, but wasn’t always effective in his shielding role. An elegant and talented player for his age, though, and one who I have high hopes for.
Laste Dombaxe 6 – a tenacious, whole-hearted pressing display coupled with some competent one and two-touch passing, and a calmly-taken penalty.
Massimo Luongo 8 – always efficient in his use of the ball (always looking to pass and move intelligently) and generally effective in his work off the ball too.
Ken McEvoy 6 – flitted in and out of the game, but positioned himself intelligently to stretch the Arsenal defence and create space for others. Long-range passes towards him were frequently over-hit in the first half, to his frustration.
Dean Parrett 7 – played much of the game as our most advanced central player, and did it to good effect, causing problems with his driving runs and tenacity.
Jack Munns 9 – a constant thorn in the side of the Arsenal defence, committing players, making late darts, and showing neat footwork. Got two goals, won a penalty, and put in the cross that led to the leveller, so it is safe to say he was the star man.

Nabil Bentaleb 7 – whilst some passes went astray, he added a sense of positivity and creativity, and was a good influence.
Dominic Ball 6 – a more physical, imposing presence than Stewart, so was probably better equipped to partner Gallifuoco.
Mason Bush – late cameo; was heavily involved in the 4th goal, bringing the ball down well initially and continuing his run into the box to link up with Parrett.

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