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Arsenal rock Blackpool to reach cup final

Potent frontline sends young Gunners through to final of the FA Youth Cup after emphatic second-leg win against Seasiders at the Emirates Stadium

19 April, 2018 — By Steve Barnett

Flo Balogun reels away after scoring in Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup semi-final win against Blackpool. Picture: Arsenal FC

ARSENAL’S youngsters put in a five-goal display on Monday when they blitzed Blackpool at the Emirates Stadium to book a place in the final of the FA Youth Cup.

Their fluid frontline have played ruthless attacking football throughout the cup campaign, and have now scored 20 goals in just six games on the way to the two-legged final after putting five past the Seasiders in a one-sided night in north London.

The Gunners were rewarded for their efforts with a showdown against Chelsea, who have dominated in recent years and will be looking to lift the trophy for the fifth year in a row.

Kwame Ampadu’s side made a stunning start against Blackpool, taking the lead after just 18 minutes courtesy of Flo Balogun’s well-placed header.

The Under-18s side used their head again to double the advantage minutes later when Xavier Amaechi’s corner was hooked into the six-yard box where captain Danny Ballard was waiting to nod home.

There was no let-up as Robbie Burton beat his marker with a sharp turn and fired in a deflected strike from 25 yards to make it 3-0.

Attacking midfielder Emile Smith Rowe then stole the show. The 17-year-old started a commanding run from deep in his own half and effortlessly skipped past five players, before being brought down in the box.

He dusted himself off to find the right-hand corner from the penalty spot, but admitted afterwards that he was disappointed to be denied one of the best goals ever witnessed at the Emirates Stadium.

“I was gutted that I got brought down,” the England Under-17s World Cup winner told Arsenal.com. “I just wanted to score. I’m so happy for the team, though, that we could get through to the final.

“I just got the ball, saw space and then started to run through. Luckily I got the penalty and I was able to score, so I’m still very happy.

“From the penalty, I was going to go the other way. I was quite nervous because I thought the keeper was going to get it, but we do practice them a lot in training.

“I’m dedicating that one to my nan because it’s such a memorable goal for me to score.”

With a 4-0 lead and a place in the final assured, the intensity of the game understandably dropped off in the second half.

Blackpool were reduced to 10 men in the 74th minute when Jack Newton dragged Balogun to the floor, forcing the referee to brandish a second yellow card.

In the final seconds of the match substitute Matthew Smith rounded off the scoring as he tapped in from close range after Bukayo Sako’s initial shot was saved by the keeper, earning the Gunners a 5-0 victory on the night, and a 7-2 win on aggregate following the 2-2 draw in the first leg.

Arsenal’s Young Guns will now face Chelsea in the first leg of the final at Stamford Bridge on April 27, before the Blues make the trip to the Emirates Stadium on April 30. Both ties will be a 7.45pm kick-off and shown live on ITV4.

It sets up a series of silverware showdowns for Arsenal, with their Under-23s facing Porto in the Premier League International Cup on May 8 in a 7pm kick-off, while they will play Chelsea again on May 5, this time in the Women’s FA Cup at Wembley. Kick off is 5.30pm.

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