Blackpool came from behind twice to secure a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their FA Youth Cup semi-final tie against Arsenal.
Xavier Amaechi’s second-half strike had given Arsenal the lead for the second time, but Ben Jacobson equalised 15 minutes from time.
The sides were level at the break, with Blackpool coming from behind. Dylan Sumner levelled for the hosts a couple of minutes before the break.
Arsenal had earlier taken the lead through Tyreece John-Jules’ 31st minute strike, with the forward opening the scoring from a corner kick, when the ball fell to his feet.
The Gunners did have the chance to make it 3-1 from the spot, but Trae Coyle’s penalty was saved by Craig Thordarson.
The hosts started the game the better side, applying the pressure in the early minutes. Jack Newton met an early corner swung in by Fin Sinclair-Smith, but the ball flew over the bar.
Inside the opening ten minutes, Arsenal also went close, as a looping free-kick into the box was deflected just past the far post for a corner kick. The ensuing corner was cleared away well, and almost resulted in Fin Sinclair-Smith getting through on the counter.
Trae Coyle managed to get down the left side on the quarter of an hour mark, but his attempted cross into the box was deflected by Tom Williams, with the ball safely rolling into Craig Thordarson’s hands.
A couple of minutes later, and Coyle got past Tom Williams and into the box, but his pull back from the byline was cleared away by Dylan Sumner.
Halfway through the first period, and Arsenal were in the ascendancy. A free-kick into the box from Robbie Burton had to be headed clear at the back post by Tom Williams.
Fin Sinclair-Smith had the first real shot in anger, with 25 minutes on the clock. His rasping effort stung the hands of Arthur Okonkwo in the Arsenal goal.
Moments later, and Arsenal countered, with Vontae Daley-Campbell beating Nathan Shaw down the visitors’ right. He fired a ball across, but it was well blocked by Will Avon.
On the half hour, Tyreece John-Jules opened the scoring for Arsenal. A corner came in from the left side, with Xavier Amaechi’s ball in dropping to John-Jules’ feet off a deflection, with the forward duly slotting home the ball from close range.
In the minute after the kick-off, Owen Watkinson was booked for dissent, after arguing that a foul should have been given against an Arsenal defender.
The visitors had a big chance to double the lead shortly after, as Fol Balogun nearly got through. He eventually turned on the ball on the edge of the box, but fired wide of the Blackpool goal.
In the later stages of the first stanza, Blackpool looked to get back into the game. However, the ball just would not seem to fall right for the hosts, as Arsenal looked to keep the lead until half time.
With 40 minutes gone, Jack Newton became the second Blackpool man to go into the referee’s book. He was booked for persistent fouling, having committed several others earlier on in the half.
The Seasiders equalised with a minute to go in the half. Nathan Shaw got down the wing, before cutting inside and delivering a ball in with his right foot. Will Dunne knocked it down into the path of the oncoming Dylan Sumner, who finished past Arthur Okonkwo to make it 1-1.
Half-Time: Blackpool 1 Arsenal 1
The right wing was the source of Blackpool’s attacks for the early part of the second-half. Twice Nana Adarkwa managed to get past Xavier Amaechi, but both crosses into the box were cleared away. Then Fin Sinclair-Smith did the same, but his cross was headed away by Danny Ballard, just in front of Owen Watkinson.
Good harassing from Owen Watkinson then brought another half-chance about. The ball fell to Will Dunne, who got past his man and drove to the byline. However, his ball in was cleared away for a corner by Tobi Omole.
The ensuing corner saw a nasty clash of heads between Blackpool’s captain, Ben Jacobson, and Arsenal’s Tyreece John-Jules. After a couple of minutes of treatment, thankfully both players were able to get up and carry on with the game.
Moments after play restarted; Fin Sinclair-Smith turned on the ball in midfield and played in Owen Watkinson. The striker dragged his shot wide though, keeping the scores level.
Blackpool then forced Arthur Okonkwo into a triple save. Firstly, the ‘keeper got down to save Will Dunne’s back post header, before getting up to smother the rebound, which had fallen to Owen Watkinson. Finally, he then came out to collect Nana Adarkwa’s cross just seconds later.
Arsenal countered dangerously on the hour mark, having been under pressure for the opening fifteen minutes of the second period. Some good interplay between Tyreece John-Jules and Xavier Amaechi led to Fol Balogun having a shot on goal, but it was well blocked by Tom Williams.
Robbie Burton then came close to giving Arsenal the lead for the second time. The midfielder had a shot from distance, which just bounced in front of Craig Thordarson, with the Blackpool goalkeeper needing two attempts at getting hold on to it.
The Gunners then made a double change on the hour mark as well. Matthew Smith came on for James Olayinka in the middle of the park, with Bukayo Sako coming on up top, replacing Fol Balogun.
Arsenal then took the lead for a second time through Xavier Amaechi. Vontae Daley-Campbell got past two men down the visitors’ right wing, before pulling the ball back for Amaechi, who finished into the bottom corner to make it 2-1.
Craig Thordarson then did what he has done several times in this cup run, by saving an Arsenal penalty. Will Avon had brought down substitute Bukayo Sako in the area, but Trae Coyle’s effort was well saved by the Blackpool goalkeeper.
Thordarson then had to be alert again to the danger of Sako. The striker was played through by Trae Coyle, but the Blackpool ‘keeper stuck out his left foot to keep the hosts just one goal behind.
The hosts got level again with a quarter of an hour to go, as the captain Ben Jacobson bundled the ball home. The chance came after Arthur Okonkwo spilled a cross at the feet of the defender.
Blackpool then made two changes, with Brendan O’Brien coming on for Nana Adarkwa down the right wing. Emil Jaaskelainen replaced Will Dunne up top.
Blackpool had three good efforts at goal as the game moved into the final ten minutes, with them all going just wide in a matter of minutes. Fin Sinclair-Smith and Ben Jacobson both had cracks at goal from the edge of the area, before the former tried a volley, but it curled away from Okonkwo’s far post.
Into the final minute of four added on, after the clash of heads earlier in the half, Ewan Bange came on for Owen Watkinson, who had worked tirelessly up front.
The score stayed the same to the final whistle, with a draw being the fair result. Blackpool came from behind twice, and will go to the Emirates knowing it is all to play for.
Full-Time: Blackpool 2 Arsenal 2
Goals: Sumner (43’), Jacobson (74’)
Team: Thordarson; Williams, Avon, Jacobson (c); Adarkwa (O’Brien), Sumner, Newton, Shaw; Sinclair-Smith; Dunne (Jaaskelainen), Watkinson (Bange)
Unused Subs: Simson, Maddox