Stephy Mavididi struck twice as the Arsenal under-21’s continued their promotion push with a victory away at Stoke on Saturday, despite Daniel Crowley’s red card in the second half.
Arsenal started the game brightly and sent Stoke an early warning when the dangerous Crowley had a shot beaten away by goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann.
However, just eight minutes later the deadlock was broken, and again it was Crowley who was at the heart of it. The English midfielder, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Barnsley, got away from his marker down the right-hand side before cutting the ball back for Mavididi to lash a shot into the roof of the net.
Stokes Julien N’Goy fired over when well-placed in the penalty area as Stoke searched for an equaliser in a first half of few chances and came close soon after the interval when Dominic Telford’s effort from distance forced a good save from Arsenal ‘keeper Matt Macey as it bounced awkwardly in front of him.
Mason Watkins-Clark was culpable in the build-up to the first goal and was again at fault as Arsenal doubled their lead. The Stoke left-back was disposed by Mavididi, who set up Marcus McGuane (formerly Marcus Tabi) to slot the ball through the legs of the oncoming Bachmann. Unfortunately, during the celebrations Crowley swore at the referee several times, earning him an entirely unnecessary red card.
With the man advantage, Stoke began to enjoy more possession, and with 15 minutes to play found a route back into the game. Surrounded by Arsenal players with his back to goal just outside the penalty area, N’Goy somehow escaped all of them, rode the challenge of Julio Pleguezelo, before shooting left-footed past Macey to set up a nervy finish.
Mohamed El Ouriachi had a shot saved as Stoke pressed for an equaliser, but it was Arsenal who sealed the win as they ruthlessly exploited the space in the opposition defence. First, Mavididi got clear but could only shoot into the side-netting. Despite this, the striker made no mistake as he was presented a similar opportunity moments later, coolly rounding Bachmann to finally settle the game.
The win leaves Arsenal in third, just 1 point behind Derby in first but the Gunners have a game in hand on their rivals.