Aston Villa players react as Under-21s beaten in play-off final by star-studded Arsenal

The Birmingham club's development side lost 3-1 in their end-of-season decider on Tuesday night.

Whilst it has been the most catastrophic of seasons for Aston Villa in the Premier League, one bright spark of hope throughout recent times has been the club's youth.

Whilst Jack Grealish was the breakthrough star of last season, this term academy players such as Andre Green, Jordan Lyden, and Kevin Toner has all made the step up from development football to first-team involvement.

Although continuing to progress at senior level is now the priority for that group of players - something they may get increased opportunities to do in the Championship next season - they had reserve-team football on their minds again on Tuesday night.

With Villa's annus horribilis finally drawing to a close at Arsenal on Sunday, the two clubs met in the Under-21s play-off final at the Emirates, with the winner securing promotion to the top flight of the reserve system.

A Villa side captained by Lyden and including Green, the club's youngest ever Premier League player Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, and other exciting prospects such as Easah Suliman, Rory Hale, and Jerrell Sellars, lined up against a star-studded Arsenal 'youth' side which boasted Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Calum Chambers, and Joel Campbell.

Before the match, first-team players such as former academy jewel Grealish wished the young contingent good luck for their curtain-closer.

It ultimately wasn't to be, however, as although Villa took the lead through Hepburn-Murphy, Arsenal's first-team quality eventually told and the hosts rans out 3-1 winners on the night to deny the Birmingham club's youngsters the perfect finale to an impressive season.

After the match, some of Villa's youngsters took to Twitter to express their feelings, and it was a clear mix of disappointment at the result and determination to improve next season which was the overriding emotion.

After a promising season at academy level, several of Villa's youngsters may be hoping to find their first-team chances significantly increased next season as the club contend with the Championship.

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