With Arsenal FC and Borussia Dortmund's UEFA Youth League sides meeting the standard of their seniors, BVB coach Marc Meister paid tribute to the new competition.
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Arsenal FC's games against Borussia Dortmund have been two of the UEFA Champions League group stage's most thrilling ties – and the clubs' youth sides are more than matching their senior counterparts for excitement in the UEFA Youth League.
After a high-class 0-0 draw in London two weeks ago, the two teams met again on Wednesday in Group F of the new junior competition. They played out a memorable 2-2 draw in Holzwickede as third-placed Dortmund came from two down to earn a point against the leaders, who had BVB coach Marc Meister purring at times.
"I was really thrilled today. Two weeks ago we already saw very good youth football, a very intense match with lots of fair play, which is really important," said Meister. "Technically and tactically it is a big challenge playing Arsenal. The team fought really well, you just cannot shut them down the entire time, which is why our goalkeeper kept us in the game with fantastic efforts two or three times."
Arsenal boss Steve Gatting was equally thrilled by the quality on display, despite his charges surrendering their advantage. "Perhaps we might have won, we had a lot of good chances during the match. But finally I am more pleased with the performance of my team than with the result."
"Arsenal are just outstanding in attack," added Meister. "They are really quick, I could almost enjoy them creating numerical superiority close to the ball, if only I wasn't coaching the opposing team!"
Indeed Dortmund No1 Steffen Göcke pulled off a number of outstanding stops to keep his side level, while the scorer of Dortmund's equaliser, Nick Weber, relished the chance to play teams of the standard of the Gunners. "The international flavour is definitely cool, we enjoy it more and it is, of course, the highlight of the season," he said after the final whistle. "At these games there is a bigger crowd than usual and you just know you are playing Arsenal which gives you that little bit extra motivation."
That added incentive was something Arsenal captain Kristoffer Olsson also noted when taking on Europe's finest. "This trip to Germany was a very cool experience but the match was really hard, even harder than our national league. They were really tough to play against. Dortmund are a really compact team," said the Swede, who hopes his club can go all the way. "We beat Napoli and Marseille already. Why shouldn't we manage it another time."