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Report: Villa U21 1-0 Arsenal U21

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Report: Villa U21 1-0 Arsenal U21

Villa kept their hopes of a top-two finish alive with a hard fought and deserved win over Arsenal.

Jerell Sellars' second half goal was the difference in a well-contested match under the Villa Park floodlights.

The result means Villa go above the Gunners into second place in the Barclays U21 Premier League Division Two table by a point - Arsenal with two games in hand.

It was a performance full of craft, commitment and attacking impetus from the youngsters, who were almost ahead just 27 seconds into the contest.

Clever hold-up play from forward Keinan Davis as well as good persistence from Khalid Abdo fed striker Sellars - his effort just lacked the necessary power.

Fresh from his first team debut against Tottenham yesterday, Andre Green was back on the B6 stage and he came close to opening the scoring - an inch-perfect pass from diminutive defender Easah Suliman picked out the winger, his effort well held by goalkeeper Ryan Huddart.

In truth, the Londoners were indebted to their stopper.

His double save from a Sellars strike and Rory Hale's follow-up denied Villa a twelfth minute lead.

That said, Steve Gatting's outfit were always a threat.

Former Villa man Daniel Crowley's audacious lob was wide of the target while a lightning-quick counter attack ended with Reiss Nelson firing into the side netting.

Jordan Lyden was inches from netting his second goal in as many matches - Green picking out his run into the box, the pass just evading the claret and blues' skipper.

With 30 minutes played, visiting forward Serge Gnabry linked up well with Nelson but saw an effort blocked behind for a corner.

And the action didn't stop there.

 Hale 640

Moments before the interval, midfielder Hale went on a marauding run and his strike was clawed around the post by the visiting stopper.

Kevin MacDonald's young lions started the second period in the same manner as the first - on top.

And they could've been ahead in the 49th minute.

Sellars, Abdo and Davis showed telepathic understanding to combine and the latter found the back of the net but was adjudged as offside.

The all-action Hale embarked on another fine run, this time into the area going down under the challenge of the Arsenal stopper - referee Ben Cooke waved play on and gestured for a goal-kick.

Sellars 640

It was a case of patience is a virtue for Sellars who gave Villa the lead - latching onto Lyden's perfectly-weighted pass, finishing crisply past Huddart.

This ensured the open nature of the game continued and both teams maintained their attacking intent.

The Gunners passed with precision but struggled to create enough clear openings and find the final ball.

Meanwhile, the hosts were always a threat on the counter-attack as substitutes Corey Blackett-Taylor and Callum O'Hare found space with their pace.

There was a let off for Villa with 12 minutes remaining, Donyell Malen, scorer of the penalty in Villa's 2-1 win in the reverse back in December, raced towards the box, beat his marker but his effort soared over the bar.

Two chances in quick succession courtesy of Lyden's long-range hit and Blackett-Taylor's low drive which was saved almost doubled Villa's advantage.

Hearts were in mouths as Arsenal piled forward in stoppage time and struck the bar with a header before referee Ben Cooke blew for full-time.

Villa U21: Sarkic, Webb, Suliman, Mason, Toner, Abdo (O'Hare 63), Hale (Cowans 75), Lyden (C), Green (Blackett-Taylor 57), Sellars, Davis. Subs: Johansson, Leggett.

Arsenal U21: Huddart, Moore, Da Graca, Pleguezuelo (C), Robinson (Da Silva 81), McGuane (Sheaf 63), Gnabry, Nelson, Reine-Adelaide (Johnson 63), Crowley, Malen. Unused subs: Keto, Mavididi.

Emily Liles
By @emily_liles 14th March 2016
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