Tuesday 20 November 2012
Arsenal eased into the Barclays Under-21 Premier League Elite Group stage with a 4-2 triumph over Norwich City at Carrow Road, while Sunderland and Newcastle shared a 2-2 draw in the Wear-Tyne derby.
Arsenal qualified for the Elite Group stage after Thomas Eisfeld scored twice in a six-goal thriller at Carrow Road. The German midfielder strengthened his burgeoning reputation with strikes in either half after Jamar Lozar had equalised within a minute of Chuba Akpom’s 14th-minute opener. Allthough David Fox reduced the arrears with a 72nd-minute penalty, Kristoffer Olsson restored Arsenal's two-goal cushion three minutes later.
Their seventh victory of the campaign has taken Terry Burton’s side six points clear of Reading, thereby guaranteeing at least third place in Group 1.
Elsewhere in Group 1, six points still divide Blackburn Rovers and bottom club Bolton Wanderers after a goalless draw at the County Ground, Leyland.
There was a shock in Group 2 as Aston Villa boosted their prospects of automatic qualification to the Elite Group stage with an away win that took them above Manchester United into second place.
England Under-17 international Jordan Graham won and converted a penalty seven minutes into the second half to earn Villa a hard-fought victory against a United side featuring Angelo Henriquez and Bebe.
With three matches remaining, Villa and United are level on 15 points, five behind leaders Tottenham Hotspur, who have played a match more, as the battle intensifies to finish in the top two.
Newcastle United narrowly missed out on the chance to move above Aston Villa and Manchester United as they were denied a Wear-Tyne derby triumph by Craig Lynch’s added-time goal.
The visitors had twice taken the lead in the first half through Nile Ranger, making his return from an injury that has sidelined him since the summer, and Bradden Inman, but the Magpies were first pegged back by Connor Wickham’s close-range effort and Lynch’s last-gasp strike.
Newcastle lie a point behind Villa and United having played one match more than their Group 2 rivals.
Middlesbrough boosted their hopes of a runners-up finish in Group 3 after overcoming Fulham to move to within a point of second-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers.
In blustery conditions at Boro's Rockliffe Park training ground, the hosts took the lead on 26 minutes thanks to an Andy Halliday penalty and Luke Williams secured the points with a second-half header, keeping alive the possibility that Boro, who have played a match fewer than Wolves, might qualify automatically for the Elite Group Stage with a runners-up finish.
Wolves remain second but lost impetus in their bid to reach the Elite Group Stage after being held by Crystal Palace.
The visitors fell behind to an opportunist 20th-minute strike by former Wolves player Jermaine Easter and they might have fallen even further behind but for the goalkeeping of Dorus De Vries, who saved Aaron Wilbraham’s 35th-minute spot-kick.
Steve Weaver's charges earned their point, however, as Liam McAllinden levelled the match six minutes into the second half after Anthony Forde had twice struck the woodwork for Wolves, whose advantage has been cut to a point by Boro, who have a game in hand.
The sides who finish in the top three places in Group 1 qualify for the Elite Group stage, along with the top two teams and the best third-placed finisher from Groups 2 and 3.
The remaining third-placed team from Groups 2 and 3 and clubs who finish fourth, fifth and sixth in the three sections go through to Qualification Group Tier 1, while the seventh-placed clubs plus the side to finish eighth in Group 1 go to Qualification Group Tier 2.
The two teams who top the Qualification Groups will compete in a play-off to reach the first semi-final, where they will meet the team that finishes top of the Elite Group Stage. The teams that finish second and third in the Elite Group Stage play in the other semi-final.
Monday 19 November
Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Blackburn Rovers
Norwich City 2-4 Arsenal
Manchester United 0-1 Aston Villa
Sunderland 2-2 Newcastle United
Crystal Palace 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
For all the fixtures and the latest league tables, click here