Crystal Palace Under-18s returned to top spot in the Under-18 Premier League South with an entertaining five-goal victory in spitting rain at Copers Cope academy ground on Saturday morning.
- Jesuran Rak-Sakyi strikes early to mark an excellent start for Palace. (3)
- Arsenal’s James Sweet equalises from a clever cut-back. (15)
- Palace regain the lead through a left-footed David Omilabu shot. (32)
- The visitors restore parity again with a Taylor-Hart half-volley. (42)
- HT: Crystal Palace U18s 2-2 Arsenal
- Rak-Sakyi assists Omilabu again in what proves the eventual winner. (77)
- The Eagles withstand late pressure to return to the top of the table.
- FT: Crystal Palace U18s 3-2 Arsenal
Palace entered the clash in good form, winning their last two league matches, but had dropped to second place in the Under-18 Premier League South after Fulham won an additional fixture last week.
The hosts began with a burning desire to regain top spot. With just three minutes on the clock, the ball was played over the top to Palace’s Jesuran Rak-Sakyi bursting through from midfield, and with Arsenal skipper Alex Kirk backing off he twisted left and right before cutting back onto his left foot and thrashing it past a helpless Remy Mitchell.
With possession changing hands frequently, Arsenal consistently threatened with their pace and directness in wide channels, and their equaliser came via that route. Winger Kido Taylor-Hart, switching from the right-hand side to the left, pushed the ball past Dylan Thiselton and raced into the box.
With players drawn to the ball, he cut it back calmly to James Sweet, who steered a low right-footed finish past a partially unsighted Joe Whitworth.
The Eagles responded well, however, and Kevin Gonzalez showed his invention and trickery with some scintillating combination play with Rak-Sakyi, cutting infield. After several cute passes to each other around a static opposition defence, Rak-Sakyi’s powerful goalbound shot was well blocked.
Half an hour in the Eagles retook the lead. Rak-Sakyi was again instrumental, showing good persistence to get the assist. His initial cross was blocked on the six-yard line, but he picked up the ball again, choosing the right option in an unmarked David Omilabu. The forward pivoted, picked his spot, and found the same corner: low to Mitchell’s right.
But Paddy McCarthy’s men seemingly weren’t just happy with a one-goal cushion, and almost doubled their advantage shortly afterwards when Gonzalez effortlessly brought a high ball under his spell and scooped it through for target man Victor Akinwale. The striker flicked it sideways for the onrushing Omilabu, but he was eventually crowded out.
Both sides were trading blows in an open and expressive game on a zippy pitch, and Arsenal pegged the hosts back once more just before the interval.
Mauro Bandeira lofted in a free-kick from wide left, and although it was initially headed away Taylor-Hart lashed in a first-time half-volley into the bottom right corner and parity was restored.
The second-half initially failed to live up to the breathless tempo of the first period, the first real chance coming just before the hour.
Rak-Sakyi killed a Zane Monlouis clearance dead with a fine first touch and laid it off to Akinwale, who drove it high and towards the near post, but Mitchell beat the ball away.
With small fouls disrupting the ebb and flow of the game, another set piece was more likely to break the deadlock than anything from open play, and so it proved.
Minutes after Rak-Sakyi won and then harmlessly floated a free-kick from 20 yards out straight at a grateful Mitchell, Palace scored their third 15 minutes from the end from an imaginative Dylan Thiselton long throw.
Once again the midfielder’s movement took him away from his marker and he sprinted into the penalty area, again looking for Omilabu and the combination which unlocked Arsenal’s defence for the second goal.
Rak-Sakyi’s low centre was well directed to feet but Omilabu cleverly allowed the ball to run across his body to open up the shooting angle, and he dutifully found the bottom corner with a blistering left-footed strike to spark a raucous ten-man celebration.
Palace withstood the late pressure to overtake leaders Fulham and return to first place at the midway stage of the season to mark an excellent first half of their opening campaign as a Category 1 outfit.
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Joe Whitworth; Dylan Thiselton, Dan Quick, Cardo Siddik, Rowan Smith; Aiden Steele (c), Kevin Gonzalez, Fionn Mooney; Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, Victor Akinwale, David Omilabu.
Substitutes not used: Owen Goodman (GK); Joe Sheridan, Kaden Rodney, David Obou, Maliq Cadogan.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Remy Mitchell; Brooke Norton-Cuffy, Alex Kirk (c), Zane Monlouis, Mazeed Ogungbo; Jack Francis, Mauro Bandeira (Khayon Edwards 68); Kido Taylor-Hart, James Sweet, Omari Giraud-Hutchinson; Nathan Butler-Oyedeji (Joel Ideho 88).
Substitutes not used: Henry Jeffcott, Zach Awe, Alex Kovacevic.