Christian Saydee’s late equaliser earned AFC Bournemouth’s under-21’s a vital point in the Premier League Cup as they drew 1-1 with Arsenal at Vitality Stadium.
In front of over 2,000 fans, the Cherries striker scored the most bizarre goal as Arsenal goalkeeper Ovie Ejeheri gifted the forward a simple tap-in deep into injury time.
Zak Swanson had put the Gunners 1-0 up before half time, but the Cherries, who created the better chances in a closely fought game, battled back with a spirited second half display.
There was also a start for Lewis Cook who played his first 45 minutes of football since March, as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.
The midfielder showed glimpses of his quality during the first half and will have gained some vital minutes, whilst club captain Steve Cook was also named in Shaun Cooper’s starting 11.
It didn’t take long for Bournemouth to create their first chance of the match. With just two minutes on the clock, Ben Greenwood stepped up to take a free kick from 30 yards but his curling effort flashed past Ejeheri’s left-hand post.
Lewis Cook was eager to get into the game from the off and threaded a ball through to Saydee early on. The striker turned and drove into the box, but had his shot blocked at the near post earning the Cherries a corner.
15 minutes in, and Cameron Plain was called into action for the first time as Arsenal whipped in a corner that came right on top of the ‘keeper, who punched the ball clear of danger.
The Cherries then tested Ejeheri with their first effort on target. A Moriah-Welsh free kick from the left-back position was floated into the box and met by Brennan Camp. The defender directed his header back across goal, but his effort was saved by the Arsenal keeper down low to his right.
Arsenal’s Omari Hutchinson then almost got in behind the Cherries defence after receiving a cross-field ball from Nathan Butler-Oyedeji. The winger drove into the box but was unable to release the ball as he was halted by several black and red shirts.
With just under half an hour played, Brooklyn Genesini whipped in a dangerous cross from the right flank. The ball took a deflection off an Arsenal defender before finding its way through to Saydee and Luke Nippard who almost got in each other’s way. Saydee took charge of the situation and weaved through several Arsenal defenders but run out of space as the ball rolled out for a goal kick.
Arsenal took the lead with 34 minutes on the clock after Genesini was dispossessed on the right by Joel Ideho. The Arsenal man drove across the edge of the box and found Hutchinson coming in off the right flank, who then pulled it back for Swanson to fire home from just inside the area.
Moments later, Butler-Oyedeji found himself with space 18 yards out, getting a shot away, and forcing Plain into a good save, who tipped the striker’s vicious effort over the bar.
The goal had given the Gunners the momentum and soon after it was the turn of Kido Taylor-Hart who turned in the box but was denied by Plain who gathered the shot with ease.
Just before the break, Lewis Cook showed the crowd what they had been missing, as the midfielder sent a brilliant 40-yard ball from right to left for Kurran-Browne before the referee blew for half time.
Jack Wadham replaced Lewis Cook during the break with the 24-year-old being eased back into action after around seven months on the sidelines.
Arsenal started applying some earlier pressure in the second half as they probed down the Cherries left-hand side. Hutchinson and Swanson were linking up well, but the Cherries were able to deal with the early threats.
There was a moment of worry as Kurran-Browne stayed down after a heavy challenge ten minutes into the half. The midfielder received treatment on the field before being replaced by Euan Pollock on the hour mark.
Moriah-Welsh then came close to an equaliser when his shot from the edge of the area went just wide of the Arsenal goal.
The Cherries started to give the Gunners more problems, and Saydee used his strength to turn and drive at the Arsenal defence before being fouled 20 yards from goal. The striker stepped up to take the resulting free kick but watched his effort sail over the bar.
With 20 minutes left, Bournemouth created their best chance of the game. From a throw-in on the left. Saydee received the ball on his chest, turned and volleyed towards the far corner but Ejeheri’s outstretched hand pushed the ball out for a corner.
Then up the other end, Euan Pollock made a crucial sliding tackle to deny Hutchinson from close range as the Arsenal man burst into the right-hand side of the box and was denied a shot on goal as Pollock threw himself in front of the ball.
Another chance fell to the home side, this time Saydee laying the ball off for Moriah-Welsh around 18 yards out, but the Cherries midfielder was unable to direct his effort on target.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Arsenal burst down the left flank and Hutchinson was found lingering towards the back post, but Greenwood was there to block the Arsenal man’s shot and clear his lines.
The Cherries were not giving up without a fight though, and with just over two minutes left on the clock Steve Cook tried his luck from distance but his effort failed to get through a sea of legs.
Then man of the match, Saydee, got his goal in a moment of confusion for everyone in the stadium.
After an injury to an Arsenal player, the Cherries returned the ball back to Ejeheri from the halfway line, the Arsenal keeper gathered the ball and then placed it on the ground and Saydee pounced on the loose ball to tap in from close range.
Arsenal were adamant the goal shouldn’t have been allowed, but after consulting with his assistant the referee had no choice but to award the goal.
Saydee then almost got the winner as the ball fell to the striker inside the box a minute later but found the side netting with a snapshot before the referee blew for full time.
AFC Bournemouth: Plain (gk), Genesini, Greenwood, Camp, Steve Cook, Moriah-Welsh, Lewis Cook (Wadham 45'), Nippard, Roberts (Gidaree 71’), Saydee, Kurran-Browne (Pollock 60’).
Subs not used: Terrell (gk), Seddon
Booked: L. Cook.
Arsenal: Ejeheri, Swanson, Ogungbo, Rekik, Olayinka, Hutchinson, Cottrell (Oulad M’hand 36’), Walters, Butler-Oyedeji, Taylor-Hart, Ideho (Lopez 75’).
Subs not used: Graczyk (gk), Alebiosu, Akinola.