Spurs under 23’s 3-1 Arsenal: (match report)
Wayne Burnett’s development side put in the performance of the season to over come arch rivals Arsenal 3-1 this afternoon in the PL2. Burnett’s side were up against it when they travelled to Boreham Wood to face the high flying gunners, who sat in a comfortable third place in the league table. Whilst our lads battle it out with Man United and Sunderland for first division survival. Both teams put out strong sides, there was one surprise for our side which was the absence of the inform Shilow Tracey. Whilst talented u18 striker Reo Griffiths made the step up to u23 level to make his first PL2 start, replacing Sterling who is being rested for the Porto game in midweek. Spurs were exceptional today, they played fluid attacking football against an Arsenal team with a plethora of attacking players. After a difficult opening spell which saw them go 1-0 down, Burnett’s side fought back with a grit and determination. Getting the leveller soon afterwards, Spurs took control of the central areas. They utilised the creativity of the wide men, and asserted their authority on the game. Oliver Skipp made it 2-1 to the lilywhites eight minutes before half time. And the second half was even better, Spurs played with a flare about their game, they outplayed Arsenal and pressed them out of the game, Bennetts’ stunning free kick on 57 minutes deflated Arsenal. And Burnett’s side comfortably saw out the remainder of the game to record a precious victory over our old foes from down the road.
Christian Maghoma took the captains armband for the north London Derby (something which I predicted in my preview). Burnett’s side got the game underway at Meadow Lane against a very attacking gunners outfit. The first real piece of action came from Samuel Shashoua’s inviting corner kick which he whipped into the danger zone with less than two minutes on the clock. His delivery only just evading Christian Maghoma inside the box. Joe Pritchard tested Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Macey moments later. When his fierce strike from the edge of the penalty area was tipped just wide by the Arsenal man. The lively start to proceedings continued this time at the other end, as a good Arsenal move down the left saw Amaechi square for Dragomir in the penalty area. It would have been a certain goal for the Romanian but for a terrific piece of defending by Tanganga who managed to block his effort. The gunners were starting to get into the game, Emile Smith Rowe tested Whiteman with a thumping effort from range. Whilst Amaechi managed to outwit fullback Anthony Georgiou down the right flank soon afterwards. After getting the better of his man for pace, Amaechi was brought down from behind by Georgiou who conceded a free kick on the edge of the box. Steve Gatting’s side continued to threaten the Spurs goal when Dragomir’s effort stung the palms of the so far uninvolved Alfie Whiteman before Maghoma made the clearance.
Arsenal’s pressure was rewarded on 18 minutes when they took the lead courtesy of a header from defender Danny Ballard. The goal came from a free kick in exactly the same position as the previous one, after Shashoua conceded a foul on the edge of the Tottenham penalty area. Amaechi’s pin point delivery caught out the Spurs defence as Ballard rose the highest, to nod the ball past Whiteman and into the back of the net, 0-1. Burnett’s team struggled to get the ball out of their own half as Arsenal enjoyed the lions share of possession. A key tactical change was made shortly after we conceded the goal as Burnett made Bennetts and Shashoua switch flanks this proved to be a very effective move. The gunners lead lasted a mere 8 minutes, as Burnett’s side fought back to force the equaliser. It was an excellent reaction from the lads who managed to convert from a well worked corner kick. Whipped in towards the far post by Bennetts, met by Tanganga who managed to loop the ball across goal and into the path of Eyoma at the back post, to comfortably head home. The ecstatic Eyoma sprinted towards the corner flag to celebrate swiping it in the process, he certainly wasn’t going to forget his first goal at this level in a hurry. This had developed into a really competitive game of football, and that frantic end to end style continued. An astute piece of defending by Tanganga followed as he stopped a dangerous Arsenal break by pulling back his man, taking one for the team in the process.
Buoyed by Eyoma’s equaliser, Spurs began to assert there authority on the game and were now the side with the majority of possession, we were getting forward a lot more often. One such attacking foray came via a promising run by Bennetts who managed to win a dangerous free kick on the edge of the oppositions box. Unfortunately Samuel Shashoua’s bending effort was headed away by a player in the wall. The Tottenham fightback took a further twist on 35 minutes after Burnett’s side took the lead courtesy of a wonderful move. It all started with Shashoua’s disguised pass to Pritchard down the right flank, Pritchard advanced towards the byline, cutting inside his man. Before whipping a delightful ball into the danger zone which was brilliantly converted by Oliver Skipp, whose deft side footed effort flew into the top right corner of Macey’s net, it really was phenomenal stuff from Spurs. It was young Skipps first goal of the season. Spurs finished the half strongly, their high press proving too much for a now struggling Arsenal side. Reo Griffiths was unlucky not to be given a penalty after a challenge from behind, whilst the dominant Tanganga headed wide from Bennetts corner a couple of minutes later. On a different note, Ty from Arsenal fan tv had just entered the stadium. Arsenal weren’t really testing Whiteman, their one half chance came on the stroke of half time when Da Silva’s low effort was deflected out for a corner by Maghoma. Spurs had bounced back remarkably well and were now in the ascendancy.
Burnett’s side almost got the second half underway with a bang following an incisive team move straight from kick off. Good awareness from Skipp resulted in the influential midfielder playing Griffiths through down the right side after a good pass. Instead of shooting Griffiths opted to square the ball to Pritchard inside the box. The midfielder left it for Bennetts but the winger got his feet all wrong and the chance amounted to nothing. The potent Pritchard curled an effort over Macey’s goal soon afterwards, as Spurs continued to dominate the central areas of the pitch, through the tenacity and guile of Oliver Skipp and the decisiveness of Marsh. The decisive moment in the game came in the 57th minute following a foul on Reo Griffiths around 28 yards out from goal. Bennetts stood up confidently to take the resulting free kick, his shoulders laid back, he confidently steadied himself before making a Ronaldoesque run up, the effort that followed was sublime even for Bennetts standards. He had managed to generate both the power and curve on the ball needed to beat Macey from such a distance, the ball curling magnificently into the top right hand corner of the goal, leaving the Arsenal players and fans alike stunned. Spurs were in total control. Whilst the tireless defending from both Maghoma and Tanganga continued to thwart a lack lustre Arsenal front line. However, they did come close to pulling a goal back through Smith Rowe who fired just over, in what was a rare Arsenal attack. Then followed a special moment for TJ Eyoma who was joined on the pitch by his older brother Aaron who he would be playing against for the first time at this level.
Burnett’s side were playing fluid football and continued to dictate the tempo of the game, whilst also managing to defend resolutely against a desperate Arsenal side. One such important piece of defending came from George marsh who did excellently to win the ball off of Dragomir inside the penalty area. Spurs then initiated another nice move at the other end, after the alert Skipp managed to get to the ball after receiving Maghoma’s pass. Under pressure from Gilmour, Skipp managed to get the ball to Shashoua down the right wing despite being taken clean out by the Scotsman who would later receive a yellow card. Shashoua then threaded the ball down to Pritchard, who fired inches wide of Macey’s goal from a tight angle. One thing that was striking from the game was the difference in stamina between the two sides, with 70 or so minutes on the clock Spurs looked as if the game had just begun whilst Arsenal struggled to deal with their high energy levels and tigerish pressing. Dragomir fired into the side netting shortly afterwards but Arsenal never really looked like a threat going forwards. Bennetts tried his luck at a speculative effort from range which flew wide following a lay off from Griffiths. And the young striker who had been mostly involved in hold up play, tried to get on the scoresheet himself! after hitting a low effort towards goal. But Macey dealt with it comfortably. Christian Maghoma made an important block before Spurs went at Arsenal again at the other end. Courtesy of another well worked move, Griffiths did all the hard work up top as he held the ball up before passing to Skipp. The midfielder immediately slipped substitute Jack Roles through inside the penalty area. The Cypriots powerful effort unluckily cannoning off of Macey’s crossbar, as Arsenal avoided further embarrassment.
With the game in the bag for Spurs, Arsenal had one more frantic go at our defence as we entered stoppage time. First through goal scorer Ballard who forced a good save out of Whiteman, and then through Balogun whose delightful curler flew inches wide of the far post. The final score from Boreham Wood, Spurs under 23’s 3-1 Arsenal. Our lads best performance of the season sees them bolster their already strong chances of beating the drop whilst also denting Arsenal’s title ambitions, that’s now six games unbeaten for Burnett’s side. Whose next game comes on April 7 against Derby county. This game has really helped me to forget about the Juventus result in the week! COYS
Player reviews: – Alfie Whiteman: Believe it or not he was a spectator for the most part. Was forced into making a couple of decent saves in the first half. And to my knowledge he only had to make one more in the second.
– TJ Eyoma: On the scoresheet for the first time at u23 level, Eyoma made it a day to remember on a day to remember for the Eyoma household. Apart from his goal I thought he did a really good job at right back, he was dominant and aggressive. Composed with the ball at his feet and crisp in his passing, Eyoma was decisive and he did a good job at keeping out danger down the left flank.
– Anthony Georgiou: Put in another good performance, this time at left back. Whilst it did limit the offensive side of his game, Georgiou managed to do a good job at defending and remained solid throughout.
– George Marsh: Tireless performance from the midfield anchor man, whose relentless pressing and tenacity in the central areas allowed the more creative players to play their game. Didn’t go unnoticed.
– Christian Maghoma: I’ve said it many a time, but the defensive partnership between both Maghoma and Tanganga is always so strong and effective whenever they play together. Both centre halves complement each other and that was certainly the case today, rock solid from the offing. The skipper put his body on the line for the team making many important blocks and interceptions, whilst dominating in the air. Maghoma was good on the ball and played some nice passes forward. Showed good anticipation.
– Japhet Tanganga: Tanganga was absolutely exceptional against the gunners. Forceful, decisive and intelligent in his defending, the heroic Tanganga made a much welcome return from injury for the NLD. His presence at the back was immense, as was the way he dominated Dragomir and got in front of him on numerous occasions, it was sheer class. As were the many terrific challenges and blocks that he made, range of passing and movement. Couldn’t sing his praises high enough! The complete performance.
– Keanan Bennetts: Another impressive performance from the wide man, Bennetts tested the Arsenal fullbacks with his mazy runs and trickery down the flanks, as well as his tendency to cut inside. The real moment of magic from the game came from Bennetts who only turned 19 yesterday. A phenomenal match winning free kick from over 25 yards out, I hope you all get to see it at some point.
– Oliver Skipp: My motm see below.
– Reo Griffiths: Really impressed me after making the step from u18 level to make his full PL2 debut against Arsenal. Whilst he didn’t have that many chances in front of goal himself, Griffiths impact came via his excellent hold up play, silky skills and lung bursting forward runs. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in the u23 team.
– Joe Pritchard: Really influenced the game operating in the ’10’ role, quietly creative and hardworking throughout. Pritchard kept things simple but wasn’t afraid to try his luck from range (was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet). Created a lovely assist to set up Skipp’s goal.
– Samuel Shashoua: One of our main creative outlets, Shashoua’s intricate passing and disguised Lamelaesque through balls created many an opening. His ridiculous work rate and eagerness to get back and defend really helped out the team.
– Tashan Oakley-Boothe: Decent cameo, creative with the ball.
– Jack Roles: Brief cameo, came with in an inch of scoring soon after coming on.
My man of the match: Oliver Skipp. Domineering, creative, decisive and tireless. They were all words you could use to describe Oliver Skipp’s performance against Arsenal, complete is an understatement. Skipp controlled the game from start to finish, out powering the opposition players with his unbelievable stamina, reading of the game and ability to pick out a key pass. Skipp played like a 27 year old not a 17 year old. He was always alert, looking over his shoulder constantly even when the game was already won, he dictated play and showcased his wide ranging skillset. Not to forget he also scored a superb goal!
Arsenal: Macey, Osei Tutu, Bola, Da Silva (c), Ballard, Medley, Coyle (Eyoma 62), Gilmour (Balogun 81), Dragomir, Smith Rowe, Amaechi. Substitutes (not used): Keto, Olowu, Smith.
Spurs: Whiteman, Eyoma, Georgiou, Marsh, C Maghoma (c), Tanganga (Brown), Bennetts, Skipp, Griffiths, Pritchard (Oakley-Boothe 66), S Shashoua (Roles 77). Substitutes (not used): O’Reilly, Duncan.
Goals: Arsenal – Ballard 18; Spurs – Eyoma 25, Skipp 33, Bennetts 57.
Yellow cards: Arsenal – Da Silva 31, Ballard 56, Gilmour 66; Spurs – Georgiou
14, Tanganga 28, S Shashoua 60.
Referee: Simon Barrow.
U23’s 2017/18 statistics: Top scorers: Sterling-10