Gnabry strikes as Arsenal see off CSKA Moscow to set up Chelsea tie
PUBLISHED: 21:42 25 March 2013 | UPDATED: 10:10 26 March 2013
NextGen Series quarter-final: Arsenal 1 CSKA Moscow 0
Arsenal booked their place in the last four of the Next Gen Series with a one-goal victory over CSKA Moscow which scarcely reflected their superiority on Monday evening.
On a freezing night at the Emirates Stadium you might have suspected that the Russian side would feel more at home, but it was it the Londoners who went about the task in more confident fashion from the beginning.
Serge Gnabry scored the game’s only goal with a clinical finish early in the second half although, as if having learned from the club’s first team, Arsenal could not find a second goal which would have eased their fans’ nerves before the final whistle.
One goal proved enough though and Terry Burton’s side will now travel to Lake Como for the final stages of the competition which begins with a semi-final against Chelsea on Friday.
Chuba Akpom set the tone for the evening in the second minute when he warmed the palms of Sergey Revyakin, and the Russian keeper was forced into more meaningful action within the first five minutes.
An incisive cross-field ball picked out rampaging full-back Hector Bellerin soon after, who provided a perfect cross to the waiting Serge Gnabry, only for the eager forward to head straight at Revyakin.
The home side started fluently in North London, although were given a let-off when Dmitry Efremov fluffed his lines from 20 yards out after being played in behind their defence.
Confident in possession and with fluid movement from their attacking quarter, they passes without penetrating in the opening half an hour and were assisted by some loose control and passing from the visitors when hurried.
One such error from towering central defender Lionel Adams fell to the Kyle Ebecilio who clinically picked out Gnabry on the edge of the penalty area with a first-time pass only for the German to see his snatched effort turned around the post.
Neither Ebecilio nor Thomas Eisfeld, who started on the right and left of midfield respectively, could be described as chalk-on-their-boots wingers, a fact which was evidenced when the latter roamed to the right of the pitch moments later before shooting wide from 20 yards.
The pair’s fondness to roam meant Arsenal’s forward play was often congested, which contributed their troubled breaking down a disciplined CSKA side and reliance on efforts from distance in the first period.
The Russian side emerged for the second with greater purpose, but no surer method of retaining the ball and it soon led to them falling behind.
After possession was once again given away in their own half, the hugely impressive Bellerin once again drove forward and combined with Gnabry, who expertly took the ball in his stride and slotted past Revyakin in the 56th minute.
The CSKA goalkeeper was his side’s best player on the night and the contest would have settled a lot earlier but for his fine display.
Arsenal enjoyed a rampant spell after taking the lead and Akpom was denied from close range soon after the hour mark with a point-blank stop, before Eisfeld’s snap-shot on the turn was also repelled.
Revyakin’s resistance gave his side hope and after s patient first 70 minutes they became more adventurous in search of equaliser, but rarely tested Deyan Iliev in the Arsenal goal.
Deprived of defensive duties for the most part, left-back Martin Angha strode forward and saw his shot from distance take a fortunate bobble which deflected it away from Revyakin, but the keeper adjusted smartly and managed to get something in the way of the effort.
The expected late charge never arrived from a CSKA side who entered the competition as one of the favourites to win it outright, but, in truth, were disappointing and went out with a whimper.
One slight concern for Burton will be an apparent injury sustained by England U19 forward Akpom, who limped off late on and was replaced by Zak Ansah, but it was one of few stresses on the night for the Arsenal youth team coach.
The London side must beat Chelsea and the winners of Sporting Lisbon and Aston Villa over the Easter weekend if they are to be crowned Europe’s best young side, but Monday’s night’s victory provided some welcome momentum for what surely will be tougher tests to come.
Arsenal: Iliev. Bellerin, Angha, Hajrovic, Hayden, Ebecilio, Yennaris, Olsson, Eisfeld, Akpom (Ansah 78), Gnabry.
Subs not used: Vickers, Mugabo, Jebb, Maitland-Niles, Ormonde-Ottowell.
Follow Iain on Twitter at @IainLiddle.