Carl Jenkinson’s late, late goal sees Arsenal U23s draw 3-3 with Manchester City
- Credit: Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Carl Jenkinson levelled for Arsenal in the 95th minute tonight at the Emirates as Arsenal and Manchester City U23s played out an entertaining 3-3 draw in front of a crowd of nearly 3,000 on a chilly North London night.
The Arsenal and England right back fired in with seconds remaining in an entertaining match in which City raced into a two goal lead through the promising former Auxerre forward Thierry Ambrose – who lists another Thierry, Arsenal’s legendary scorer with the surname of Henry, as his favourite player.
Donyell Malen then pulled a goal back for the home side just before half time, before Reiss Nelson fired a scorcher into the City net to level at 2-2 ten minutes after the restart.
Arsenal’s January signing Cohen Bramall then gave a way a penalty, converted by substitute Lukas Nmecha – before the popular Jenkinson’s last-gasp equaliser.
It was cracking entertainment as attacking flair from both teams trumped defensive solidity – and made for gripping viewing for the large number of youngsters who watched the game.
It certainly would have stuck long in the memory of the young lad who, earlier, took his dad’s hand and walked past those grand old cannons forged in the Woolwich Arsenal, past the bright shiny superstore and up the steps towards the turnstiles that would take his coins for entrance.
His wide-eyes and open mouth, with corners turned up slightly to indicate deep joy mixed with bewilderment suggested this was his first time at this globally renowned behemoth of a stadium.
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Judging by the child’s unbridled excitement it mattered little to him whether it was the first team or a 11 Gunnersaurus Rex’s out on the gloriously manicured and bright green hallowed turf of the Emirates.
Gone was the bitterness and in-fighting between supporters before the first team eased past Lincoln City on Saturday. Missing was the ongoing rifts between those for and against the manager.
For tonight’s match between Arsenal U23s and Manchester City’s U23s in the self-styled Premier League 2 league all that mattered for the youngster was football for football’s sake.
He wasn’t the only one as this open match was watched by a healthy crowd numbering nearly 3,000 – a good attendance on a evening when Chelsea played Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
But there were enough sub-plots and narratives in N5 to keep diehard fans intrigued.
Arsenal’s – and England’s – forgotten right back Carl Jenkinson started, hoping to get valuable game time under his belt, not just to kick start his career but with the very real chance of first team action as cover for the pacy Hector Bellerin in the coming battles ahead.
Then there was the Stone Roses-loving former Bolton centre half Rob Holding who was looking to prove himself worthy of a reputation as a cultured ball-playing defender, presumably jumping at the chance to prove it in front of watching eyes from the club.
There was also Yaya Sanogo, who despite hitting four against Benfica in a long-forgotten Emirates Cup match in 2014 has seen his career meander into a cul-de-sac.
If you threw in the fact Arsenal’s only signing in the January transfer window, Cohen Bramall played, as well as the undoubted promise of first team youngsters Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jeff Reine-Adelaide - both battle hardened in FA Cup away games this year, the feeling was this was a very strong Arsenal U23s side.
City for their part had the gilded youths, Thierry Ambrose and Jadon Sancho – from their equally gilded youth academy in the South Manchester club’s ambitious project to build a Barcelona-style La Masia proving ground a few minutes walk from the Etihad.
The match started with Jenkinson having a rare old tussle with City’s flying wideman Sancho before Arsenal’s number 11 Chirs Willock was denied by the visitors keeper Arijanet Muric – a Swiss youth international who arrived at the club in March 2015 from Grasshopper Club Zurich.
Gunners’ captain and centre-half Ben Sheaf, wearing the evocative number six red shirt made a perfectly timed tackled on Thierry Ambrose just as the forward was about to pull the trigger when well placed in front of Ryan Huddart.
It was nice to see such a well-timed tackled – just as it was lovely to see both sides lining up from numbers 1 to 11.
It wasn’t the only nice touch of the night. City’s Ambrose made it 1-0 with a neat finish in the box following teammate Denziel Boadu squaring the ball into his path.
It was easy to see why Parisian Ambrose made Henry his idol after the number of times he drifted in from out wide. It was also unsurprising to learn he played for Auxerre’s U19s at the tender age of 15.
On 27 minutes the talented youngster made it 2-0 after he showed great control taming a long ball through the middle with his right foot, before cleverly slotting past an onrushing Huddart with his left.
It was also nice to see no discernible discontent from the home crowd upon being 2-0 down. The energy and noise levels stayed the same, there were no banners raised, no arguments and no bitterness. The crowd - young and old - simply carried on cheering their heroes.
And with four minutes to go until half time they were rewarded with a goal as Malen pulled one back with a neat finish past Muric from an acute angle. It was the least their efforts – and their team – deserved as City went into the break 2-1 up.
Young Malen nearly levelled moments after the restart but his shot flew narrowly over the bar. It was a warning City failed to heed as five minutes later Arsenal’s number 10, Reiss Nelson fired emphatically home to make it 2-2.
The joy among him and his teammates who satisfying to watch. It was also heart-warming to hear the high-pitched cheers coming from the crowd. Not only did it indicate innocent pleasure but it also showed youngsters still watch The Arsenal in their numbers – albeit at less rarified levels than the Premier League.
But on 70 minutes hopes of a spectacular comeback to warm the spirits on a chilly March evening – and end high flying City’s eight-match unbeaten run – were dashed as Cohen Bramall misjudged a tackle in the box. The youngster signed from Norther Premier outfit Hednesford for the princely sum of £40,000 in January swiped substitute Isaac Buckley-Ricketts legs from under him in a movement you felt the 20-year-old will learn never to repeat.
Lukas Nmecha, who replaced goalscorer Ambrose moments earlier got his own name on the scoresheet by taking the subsequent penalty with 20 minutes remaining to put City 3-2.
The prolific Eddie Nketiah replaced Donyell Malen on 75 minutes while Sanogo – who battled gamely but failed to particularly impress – was replaced by Marcus McGuane ten minutes later. And despite an idiotic pitch invader who delayed proceedings for a minute while stewards performed their impression of the Keystone Cops in trying to grab him it appeared City would win out.
That was before Jenkinson’s crucial intervention as he blasted home from a matter of yards out to level a hectic game at 3-3.
As referee Anthony Coggins blew the whistle on an entertaining match in front of an attendance of 2,923 you could say the future looks bright for a lot of the players from both sides who played tonight.
Whether they will be in the colours of Arsenal and City remains to be seen.
One thing was certain however, that all the wide-eyed youngsters in attendance will brag to their schoolpals tomorrow that they have now seen Arsenal play at the Emirates.
And that can only be a good thing for the future of this great club.
Huddart, Jenkinson, Bramall, Miatland-Niles, Holding, Sheaf (c), Malen (Nketieh) Reine-Adelaide, Sanogo (McGuane), Nelson, Willock
Muric, Humprheys, Adarabioyo, Francis, Smith, Kongolo (c), Diaz, Fernandes (Buckley-Ricketts), Ambrose (Nmecha), Boadu, Sancho