If anyone thought this was going to be the prelude to a rout then they’d have not reckoned on the best under 21 side in the world’s ability to play football.
The lads just carried on knocking it about as if nothing had happened. Edu dived in with a jump challenge that had him surrounded by three Everton players wanting to get a piece of the action within milliseconds. What I liked though was that at the first sign of a ruck 10 of Arsenal’s 11 players were in there. No messing, no worries about going up against tough professionals, just typical Arsenal players standing up for their mates. Edu was carded by Alan Wiley.
Everton paid us the compliment of getting ten players back in defence but quite often they needed them. Bent was substituted early presumably for an injury. The luckless Ryan Smith also got injured and was replaced by Quincy Owusu-Abeyie who had borrowed Henry’s turbo for the evening. Quincy was something else; great close skills and pace to spare. Soon after a brilliant run and a shot saved he cut inside from our left having been set up by a great ball from Pennant, the shot inside the near post was superb. 1-1 and the kids were flying; this was to be a real contest.
Essentially the match was muscle versus class and organisation versus enthusiasm. It was all off the cuff stuff, which oozed speed, movement and sophisticated skills played at top pace. Arsenal either ran at people or hit quick fire passes to go around them. Everton did break us down every now and then and on one occasion they hit the inside of the post but Djourou cleared off the line. This followed a great save by Almunia. Half time saw the youngsters leave the field to a hugely deserved ovation. A fabulous half of football and a good close game of contrasts between the two teams.
There were some bad fouls by Kilbane and Gravesen. Kilbane who was booked was very lucky to remain on the pitch. But the fouls didn’t stop the lads knocking the ball around, and Wiley certainly did little to help. Pennant was axed by Cahill, Edu was taken out by Chadwick and Flamini was very badly treated by Kilbane. Hoyte didn’t take any crap from Kilbane though and was quite prepared to go toe to toe. If it sounds like they were trying to intimidate us that’s probably because that is exactly what they tried to do.
Moyes was doing his crust on the touchline and Arsene also was very animated. Edu had to be replaced through injury by Larsson, but any worries that this would weaken our midfield were soon dispelled. The seasoned pro Jermaine Pennant took the captain’s armband and continued to contribute effectively. I thought we’d probably tire in the last 15 minutes but we didn’t. There were occasions when Arsenal’s passing was almost in piss-take mode with the old hands like Pennant and Van Persie pulling the strings. They were not alone though and everyone played their part. Slick movement and good running continued especially in the move that culminated in a perfect pass from the right by Quincy for Lupoli to clip home for an amazing 3-1 lead.
We held on well and Everton were not without their chances, but this was a display that made you proud. It must have made Arsene and the entire Club proud. ‘Reserves, you couldn’t beat our reserves’. I’ve only been going to Highbury since the late 50’s but hand on heart I can honestly say I’ve never, ever seen a better performance by such a young and inexperienced Arsenal team. It was beautiful to watch. And to think that three of our best youngsters, namely Clichy, Fabregas and Reyes didn’t even play. It’s bloody frightening and I absolutely loved very minute of it – thank you Arsene!
If you didn’t go to the game and could have, that’s your loss, because you missed an absolute treat.