A late equaliser from Charles Sagoe Junior denied Fulham’s under 18s all three points in a London derby at Motspur Park this morning.
Olly Sanderson had put Ali Melloul’s youngsters in front just before half time but the hosts were pegged back with six minutes left when Sagoe-Junior fired into the bottom corner after latching onto a cross from Khayon Edwards. The Gunners nearly pinched all three points when a rasping drive from Jack Henry-Francis came back off the crossbar.
Melloul made changes following Fulham’s FA Youth Cup exit at Everton last Friday. Michael Allen came in between the sticks and Stefan Parkes replaced Devan Tanton in the back four. Promising younger winger Lemar Gordon stepped up to take Jaylan Wildbore’s spot whilst midfielder Chibby Nwoko was promoted from the under 16s onto the bench.
Fulham’s youngsters began brightly with a devilish cross from Michael Olakigbe narrowly eluding the home forwards as it flashed through the six-yard box. Delano McCoy-Splatt headed straight at Remy Mitchell after climbing well at the far post before Olakigbe saw a shot deflected just wide of goal. Sanderson nearly broke the deadlock on twenty minutes with an instinctive half-volley after being fed by Gordon but his shot was narrowly off target.
Arsenal, who looked composed in possession throughout, fashioned a good opening for Edwards seven minutes before the break and it required resolute defending from Xavier Benjamin and Harvey Araujo to quell the danger. Fulham profited almost immediately at the other end. Olakigbe made the goal with another burst down the right and Sanderson slotted home his ninth goal in twelve under-18 games this season.
Chances were few and far between in a tight second period with Arsenal much improved after the break. They played purposeful football but took the young Gunners until the seventh minute to force a save out of Allen when the Fulham goalkeeper did brilliantly to keep out a terrific effort from Henry-Francis. Arsenal were now laying siege to the home goal and Fulham had a lucky escape when Taylor Foran’s powerful header bounced off the bar and away to safety.
Sanderson thought he had made the points save with his second of the afternoon – a fine rising strike – but Fulham’s joy was quickly curtailed by an offside flag. Worse was to follow when Sagoe Junior drove home Edwards’ excellent cut back to earn the Gunners the point their second half display merited. Melloul’s charges will look to return to winning ways against Brighton in January.
FULHAM UNDER 18s (4-3-3): Allen; De Fougorelles, Parkes, Araujo, Benjamin; Okkas (Parker 90), McCoy-Splatt, Lanquedoc; Gordon (WIldbore 80), Olakigbe, Sanderson. Subs (not used): McNally, Nwoko, Works.
BOOKED: Olakigbe, Okkas.
GOAL: Sanderson (39).
ARSENAL UNDER 18s (4-4-2): Mitchell; Walters, Jeffcott (Quamina 63), Ibrahim, Foran; Awe, Henry-Francis, Bandeira (Vigar 73), Sagoe Junior; Edwards, Flores. Subs (not used): Kovacevic, J. Robinson, Gaspar.
GOAL: Sagoe Junior (85).