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Arsenal youngsters beat St Albans 1-0 at Clarence Park on Monday night, as a beautiful 40-yard chip from Joel Ideho was the difference between the two sides.
Arsenal played a team mixed with both u18 and u21 players, as they gained some vital minutes before the start of the 2022/23 campaign.
St Albans begin their season in the National League Conference South on Saturday and started the game with most of their first team players.
In the opening minutes, Arsenal’s youth showed their class, knocking the ball around St Albans, keeping most of the ball, but not creating many chances.
St Albans proved to be a threat on the counterattack and had the ball in the net halfway through the first half, but it was disallowed due to an offside.
Arsenal’s captain on the day, Ben Cottrell, started the game nicely, getting on the ball and making key passes to allow wingers Joel Ideho and George Lewis to cause problems for the St Albans fullbacks.
However, Cottrell was forced off due to an injury not long into the game, and was replaced by highly rated Romanian midfielder Catalin Cirjan, who had just overcome a 480-day injury.
After 480 days since the last match I played, last night I came back to the field with the desire to prove that I am leaving behind all the suffering that I went through.Get ready for an important season, I'm determined to give it my all!#nevergiveup #backstronger #thanksGod🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/z7JxJ17qaN— Cirjan Catalin (@CirjanCatalin1) July 30, 2022
Cirjan looked like he had never missed a minute, controlling the tempo of the game throughout and looking sharp from the minute he came onto the field.
Neither side was able to make a breakthrough however, and with not many chances, it was goalless at the break.
Both teams made multiple substitutions at half time, with St Albans bringing on some younger talent to try to match Arsenal.
However, it only made things worse, as Arsenal enjoyed great joy down both flanks.
Tim Akinola also had a great game for the Gunners, with his raw pace and power to get at players from the midfield position, it was clear St Albans didn’t have much to match him.
Arsenal’s closest sight of goal so far in the game came in the 67th minute, as Cirjan’s 25-yard free kick effort crashed against the crossbar and away.
Just 5 minutes later however, a piece of individual class from Joel Ideho gave Arsenal the one goal lead.
Arsenal won the ball back in St Albans half, and when the ball dropped to Ideho he had one thing on his mind, which he executed perfectly, a 45-yard chip over the goalkeeper’s head and into the back of the net.
It was exactly what Arsenal had deserved.
I definitely underplayed Joel Ideho’s goal when I said it was from “40 yards”. It’s closer to 50. pic.twitter.com/32K1Wcnn6Z— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) August 2, 2022
Goalkeeper Tom Smith was bought on at half time for the youthful Gunners, and despite having very little to do, he was called into action for the last 5 minutes.
An unbelievable save round the post from a header on the edge of the box had the St Albans fans wondering how they hadn’t scored.
St Albans applied late pressure to the Arsenal goal, however it wasn’t enough, and the Arsenal team ran out 1-0 winners.
Arsenal XI Line-up v St Albans: Hillson, Rosiak, Foran, Ibrahim, Jeffcott, Akinola, Bandeira, Lewis, Cottrell, Ideho, Taylor-Hart. Subs: T. Smith, Sweet, Cozier-Duberry, Butler-Oyedeji, Cirjan, Quamina, Monlouis.
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