Arsenal U23’s win through to Premier League International Cup final after beating Villarreal on penalties
- Credit: Archant
Zech Medley was the hero he slotted home the winning penalty in a tense spot-kick shootout as Arsenal’s U23s reached the final of the Premier League International Cup with a dramatic win against Villarreal.
1,561 were in attendance at the Emirates as Arsenal U23’s defeated Villarreal U23’s on 5-4 on penalties after 120 minutes of play at 2-2 to send Steve Gatting’s young guns to the prestigious final.
Arsenal started the game brightly, scoring after eight minutes of play as Tyreece John-Jules found the back of the net. The Gunners’ number nine latched on to a loose ball in the box, getting the better of Jose Antonio Martinez.
The home side remained in control of proceedings early on, almost doubling their lead as Xavier Amaechi’s free kick was tipped over the bar by Martinez.
Arsenal looked to be cruising at the 20 minute mark, as Charlie Gilmour made it 2-0 from the spot. The midfielder looked to be tripped in the box and made no mistake in slotting the penalty home to double the lead.
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The host’s hard work in the opening stages came undone as Villarreal levelled before half time.
A moment of madness from Deyan Iliev allowed Adrian Dalmau Vaquer to reduce the deficit. The Arsenal ‘keeper was unable to get the ball under control, allowing Dalmau to score.
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Later in the half, another drop of bad luck hit the Gunners as Kostantinos Mavropanos got his name on the wrong side of the score-sheet. In an attempt to clear Enric Franquesa Dolz’s low driven cross, the Greek defender turned the ball into his own net.
Villarreal started the second half quickly, as Salem Mohammed Al Dawsari came close to giving his team the lead. Mario Gonzalez lead the visitors on a counter attack, before squaring the ball to Al Dawsari. The forwards shot was blocked in the box by a sliding Mavropanos.
Arsenal should have taken the lead midway through the half, as John-Jules slipped and scuffed a close-range chance after some good work on the flank by Amaechi.
The hosts continued to knock on Villarreal’s door, Joe Willock with the chance – a dipping shot from outside of the box.
Neither side could add to the scoring in the second half, forcing the semi-final to extra time in North London.
It was hard to believe that four goals were scored in the 45 minutes of the game, as neither team looked close to scoring in extra time.
There was a huge penalty claim in the final moments of the second half of extra time as Willock was fouled in the box. Penalties were not absent however, as a goalless extra time meant it was penalties to decide who would proceed to the final.
After a terrible error in the first half, Iliev redeemed himself in the shootout, saving Moya’s penalty. His teammates didn’t let his efforts down, as the Gunners converted every spot kick – sending them to the final where they will face the winners of the Newcastle v Porto match.