Manchester City booked their place in The FA Youth Cup final for the second successive season after a 4-3 aggregate victory over Arsenal.
Jason Wilcox’s side headed to the Emirates Stadium protecting a 2-1 advantage from the first leg, but Chris Willock's strike inside six minutes offered seven-time winners Arsenal hope.
Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City (3-4 on aggregate)
The FA Youth Cup semi-final second leg
7.45pm Monday 4 April 2016
But City hit back within five minutes to level through Brahim Diaz, before Rodney Kongolo put the visitors well in control after the half-hour. Arsenal substitute Donyell Malen levelled in the second half, but Marc Bola's 75th-minute red card ended the Gunners' revival.
Watched on by the likes of Thierry Henry, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere – who was part of Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup-winning side of 2009 – the Gunners were unsurprisingly quick out of the blocks as Willock, showing strength and composure, took the ball onto his right foot and neatly tucked a low shot into the bottom corner.
The young Guns were immediately in search of a second with Kaylen Hinds forcing City goalkeeper Daniel Grimshaw to make a save at his near post from a similar angle.
But against the run of play City striker Lukas Nmecha’s shot was denied by a fine stop from Arsenal's Hugo Keto only for the waiting Diaz to nod home the rebound from close range.
With City back in front, 3-2 on aggregate, Hinds was again troubling the City defence. Jeff Reine-Adelaide played the number 10 through on goal but could only fire into the side netting as they approached the half hour mark.
A lapse of concentration from the Arsenal defence opened a golden opportunity for the visitors. Manu Garcia’s quick free kick was converted by Rodney Kongolo as he slipped the ball through the legs of Keto to put City firmly in control of the tie.
Five minutes before the break Grimshaw’s quick reactions were tested by Arsenal again, this time with a low deflected effort from Jeff Reine-Adelaide that was collected by the keeper.
With the final in their sights the young Blues were leading 2-1 at the break and 4-2 on aggregate.
Jacob Davenport came close on 51 minutes but curled his shot wide of the post. Just moments later, Arsenal's Stephy Mavididi was brought down on the edge of the box after turning captain Tosin Adarabioyo, but referee Darren Deadman waved away the penalty claims.
Donyell Malen replaced Mavididi on the hour mark and made an almost-immediate impact, finding himself unmarked in the box and heading home Arsenal’s second goal of the evening.
But Arsenal's final hopes were dented when Marc Bola saw red for a strong two-footed challenge on Kongolo, leaving the Gunners to see out the final 15 minutes of the tie with 10 men.
With City piling on the pressure Diaz came close to finding a third after meeting an effort drilled into the box by Javairo Dilrosen.
Deep into stoppage time Grimshaw was penalised for handling the ball outside of his area. The resulting free kick, whipped in by substitute Ben Sheaf, was impressively palmed away by the City keeper.
Emerging victorious and 4-3 on aggregate, the young Blues are now unbeaten in 13 games – a run that stretches back to early December. They will now face a two-leg final against the winners of this week’s other semi-final tie, between Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers.
Arsenal: 1 Hugo Keto; 2 Chiori Johnson (12 Ben Sheaf, 85), 6 Marc Bola, 5 Krystian Bielik (captain), 3 Tyrell Robinson; 4 Reiss Nelson, 8 Ismael Bennacer; 11 Chris Willock, 10 Kaylen Hinds, 7 Jeff Reine-Adelaide; 9 Stephy Mavididi.
Subs: 14 Marcus McGuane for Bennacer (60), 15 Donyell Malen for Mavididi (60), 12 Ben Sheaf for Johnson (85)
Subs not used: 13 Joao Virginia, 16 Kris Da Graca
Goals: Willock (6), Malen (62)
Sent off: Bola (75)
Manager: Steve Gatting
Manchester City: 1 Daniel Grimshaw; 5 Charles Oliver, 2 Cameron Humphreys, 3 Tosin Adarabioyo (captain), 4 Ahogrenashime Kigbu; 6 Jacob Davenport, 8 Rodney Kongolo; 11 Brahim Diaz, 10 Manuel Garcia Alonso, 9 Lukas Nmecha; 7 Aaron Nemane.
Subs: 16 Javairo Dilrosun for Alonso 65, 12 Joel Latibeaudiere for Kigbu (65), 14 Marcus Wood for Davenport (85)
Subs not used: 13 Christian Kjetil Haug, 15 Paolo Fernandes Cantin.
Goals: Diaz (17), Kongolo (32)
Manager: Jason Wilcox