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U23s Report: Point apiece as Eagles held by Gunners

Crystal Palace U23
Kirby 79'
Arsenal U23
Flores 55'

On a sunny Saturday afternoon at Copers Cope, Crystal Palace Under-23s shared the spoils with north London rivals Arsenal. Nya Kirby’s second in successive games cancelled out Marcelo Flores’ opener.


  • Paddy McCarthy made a single change to the side, with David Omilabu coming in for Scott Banks

  • Jesurun Rak-Sakyi tested Ovie Ejeheri early on

  • Nya Kirby fired a free-kick just over the bar 10 minutes before half-time

  • Half-time: Crystal Palace 0-0 Arsenal

  • Marcelo Flores put Arsenal in front in the 55th minute

  • John-Kymani Gordon and Rak-Sakyi came close to levelling

  • Kirby levelled with just over 10 minutes remaining, slotting home after Rak-Sakyi hit the post

  • Joe Whitworth pulled off a diving save deep into injury time to ensure the draw

  • Full-time: Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal

A week on from the narrow 1-2 defeat at the hands of reigning Premier League 2 Division 1  champions Manchester City, the Eagles welcomed north London rivals Arsenal to Copers Cope for their fourth successive home game.

Paddy McCarthy made one change to the side, with David Omilabu coming in for Scotland Under-21 international Scott Banks.

The Eagles got off to a good start, with Premier League 2 Player of the Month Jesurun Rak-Sakyi testing Ovie Ejeheri in the Arsenal goal early on. The winger danced his way into the box from the right hand side, but his effort across goal was parried and then smothered by the Arsenal ‘keeper.

Chances were few and far between for both sides in the first-half, though for Palace they were all occurring down the right. Nya Kirby floated in a free-kick from near the byline into the box which found Dan Quick unmarked, however his ball back across the box was well dealt with.

David Boateng went on multiple surging runs from right-back, combining well with Rak-Sakyi and England Under-18 International Jack Wells-Morrison, including one where he went down inside the box - though his protests fell on deaf ears.

The best attempts of the half for both sides came from free-kicks. Whilst Miguel Azeez’s free-kick from 25-yards out was easily dealt with by Joe Whitworth, Kirby’s free-kick from 20-yards out went narrowly over the bar.

Palace started the second-half with a spring in their step. David Boateng, Wells-Morrison, Rak-Sakyi, and Gordon came close within the opening minutes of the half, but it was Arsenal who struck first.

Marcelo Flores opened the scoring for Arsenal 55 minutes in after a well worked passing move which started, in classic Arsenal fashion, from their own box.

With first-team manager Patrick Vieira watching on, the Eagles were not going down without a fight. Chances again came down the right as the search for the equaliser began, the pick of which fell for Rak-Sakyi as he fired narrowly over the bar.

The Gunners were still in front as the clock ticked into the final 15 minutes, however Palace kept knocking at the door and found a way through. Initially it seemed as though Gordon was through to leve, as he flicked over Quick’s long ball over Ejeheri’s head, but the ball was cut out by the recovering Dinzeyi.

Moments later, second-half substitute Killian Phillips won the ball back on the edge of the Arsenal box and played in Gordon. The Palace No. 9 squared it across the box for Rak-Sakyi who hit the post, and the rebound was slotted home by Kirby for his second in as many games.

Kirby’s equaliser set up a grandstand finish, with the two sides battling to come away with all three points in the little time that remained. As the fourth official’s board went up to indicate an additional six minutes of stoppage time, Gordon nearly capitalised on a Ejeheri error.

Scott Banks whipped a ball into the box which was spilled by Ejeheri and Gordon was there to pounce, albeit he was facing away from goal. He turned and found Rak-Sakyi, but his shot was blocked and the follow up from Kirby was deflected out.

It looked as though the points were going to be shared, and this was ensured by Whitworth’s save right at the very end of time added on. Mike Biereth did well to find space inside the box for a header towards the near post, but Whitworth did even better to dive across and deny the Arsenal striker.

The spoils were shared, as the referee brought an end to proceedings shortly after that save. Paddy McCarthy’s Eagles slip to fifth place with the draw and are now level on points, but ahead on goals scored, with Tottenham Hotspur.

Crystal Palace: Whitworth, D. Boateng, Adaramola, M. Boateng (Phillips, 63), Quick, Watson, Omilabu (Banks, 77), Wells-Morrison, Gordon, Kirby (Steele, 90+5), Rak-Sakyi.

Subs not used: Sanneh, Thiselton.

Arsenal: Ejeheri, Ogungbo, M'hand, Dinzeyi, Walters, Kirk, Butler-Oyedeji (Francis, 71), Olayinka, Flores, Biereth, Azeez.

Subs not used: Ibrahim, Graczyk, Lewis, Ideho