Blackpool’s fairy-tale run in the FA Youth Cup came to an end at the semi-final stage, as Arsenal recorded a 5-0 victory at the Emirates to win the tie 7-2 on aggregate.
The Gunners scored four in the first-half to put the game out of Blackpool’s reach, with Fol Balogun, Danny Ballard, Robbie Burton and Emile Smith Rowe getting on the score-sheet.
Pool midfielder Jack Newton was sent off in the second-half for a second bookable offence by referee Craig Hicks, while Matthew Smith wrapped up the scoring for Arsenal with a fifth in stoppage time.
The hosts, as expected, started the better side, keeping the ball for the opening four or five minutes. Matthew Burton had an early effort, attempting to lob Craig Thordarson, but it went over the bar.
Arsenal should have gone in front through Fol Balogun inside the opening five minutes, but his attempt at directing Xavier Amaechi’s ball in went over the crossbar.
Blackpool’s first meaningful attack almost saw Owen Watkinson set free. Fin Sinclair-Smith got the ball in midfield and drove forward, but Watkinson was just offside as Sinclair-Smith played the ball through for him.
Fol Balogun then hit the crossbar, almost scoring again. Vontae Daley-Campbell got past his man down the right wing and fired a ball across the box, with Balogun’s effort clattering back off the woodwork.
Craig Thordarson then came up with a huge double save to keep the scores level in the second leg. Balogun had his third opportunity saved by the Blackpool ‘keeper, before Thordarson came out to smother Xavier Amaechi’s effort.
In the 18th minute, Arsenal’s pressure finally brought a goal. They countered from Blackpool’s first corner of the game, and Xavier Amaechi went down the left side before crossing the ball for Balogun to head home past a helpless Craig Thordarson.
The pressure kept coming, with Vontae Daley-Campbell cutting in from his right-back position to force Craig Thordarson into another save at his near post.
The corner brought about Arsenal’s second goal. Xavier Amaechi swung a ball in, with Danny Ballard, The Gunners’ captain, heading home from close range to make it 2-0.
It was 3-0 just a couple of minutes later, as Robbie Burton’s deflected effort went past Craig Thordarson, with the Blackpool’s keeper flat-footed after the deflection.
It was almost four before the half-hour mark, but Tom Williams threw his body in the way to block James Olayinka’s goal bound shot.
In the 34th minute, Emile Smith Rowe went on a mazy run, jinking past a couple of Blackpool defenders before being brought down in the box. He dusted himself down to coolly slot the penalty past Thordarson to make it 4-0.
It should have been a five-goal lead on the 40-minute mark, but Xavier Amaechi dragged his shot well wide of Thordarson’s far post.
Half Time: Arsenal 4 Blackpool 0
Blackpool started the better of the two teams in the second-half, as they looked for a way back into the game. However, the first real chance fell Arsenal’s way, with Xavier Amaechi being kept off the scoresheet by Thordarson once more.
Ten minutes into the second-half and Jack Newton went into the referee’s book. The Blackpool midfielder committed a couple of fouls in the first period, and a foul on Amaechi was the final straw for the official.
Arsenal should have scored again in the 57th minute, as Tyreece John-Jules was sent free. However, the striker blazed the ball into the side netting.
After that chance, Brendon O’Brien came on for Dylan Sumner in the Blackpool midfield. A few minutes later, and Bukayo Saka replaced Amaechi for Arsenal.
Fol Balogun could have had five or six on the night, blazing over another chance after a defensive error. Will Avon got across well to put the winger off his shot on goal.
Both teams made changes on the 70-minute mark. Will Dunne then came on for the final 20 minutes, replacing Owen Watkinson up top. Arsenal brought on Trae Coyle for Emile Smith Rowe at the same time.
It then got worse for Blackpool with a quarter of an hour to go as Jack Newton received his second yellow card and was dismissed. The referee brandished the card after Newton had stopped Arsenal from countering.
Moments later, Fol Balogun was brought off, replaced by Matthew Smith, as Arsenal brought on another midfielder to see out the final minutes of the match.
Tom Williams also went into the referee’s book for a late challenge on Bukayo Saka, as the defender looked to win the ball on the sideline. Emil Jaaskelainen replaced Nana Adarkwa with Blackpool’s final change of the game.
Blackpool tried to apply pressure late on, with Ben Jacobson having a shot from distance, which went straight into the arms of Joao Virginia, in the Arsenal goal. Fin Sinclair-Smith then almost got through, but Matthew Smith just got back to take the ball away from the forward.
Tom Williams, once again, got across to make a fantastic block to stop the score from being added to. He got across to deflect Tyreece John-Jules’ effort away from goal.
Matthew Smith rounded the night off with a fifth goal of the game, making the scoreline 7-2 on aggregate in the final minute of stoppage time.
Full-Time: Arsenal 5 Blackpool 0 (Arsenal win 7-2 on aggregate)
Team: Thordarson; Williams, Avon, Jacobson (c); Adarkwa (Jaaskelainen 83’), Sumner (O’Brien 58’), Newton, Shaw; Roache; Watkinson (Dunne 70’), Sinclair-Smith
Unused: Simson, Maddox