A hat-trick from Nacer Barazite and a brace from Luke Freeman was enough for Arsenal u-18s to secure a 5-2 win over Southampton at London Colney on Saturday morning.
Having not won previously in 2008, Steve Bould selected a strong side for the visit of Southampton. Abu Ogogo, Paul Rodgers and Rene Steer all started in defence, along with Kyle Bartley, fresh from action at the Algarve tournament. Luke Freeman was only on the bench as he made way for the returning Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond began the game on the right side of midfield, with Jonas Rasmussen, who had started the previous two games, dropping to the bench.
The game started off in a lively state, with Arsenal making some good attacking moves. They only had to wait nine minutes to score the first goal, when Craig Eastmond and Emmanuel Frimpong exchanged passes before the ball found it’s way to Nacer Barazite, who was one-on-one with the ‘keeper and never looked likely to miss.
With a one-goal advantage under their belt early on, Arsenal went off in search of a second. They were denied a couple of times by the Southampton ‘keeper after some weak efforts on goal, but the next clear cut chance fell to Southampton, when their number 6 headed the ball just over the bar.
Arsenal responded and this time they did get their second goal. James Dunne found Emmanuel Frimpong who threaded the ball through to Barazite who smashed a ferocious effort past the Saints keeper. Nacer was certainly back in the goals after his injury heartbreak in the Carling Cup against Blackburn in December.
The Gunners should have gone three up on 33 minutes, but Sanchez Watt missed an open goal after a decent cross from Thomas on the left-hand side. It was to be the England u-17 international’s last contribution of the game as, ten minutes later, he was substituted after being concussed as a result of a collision with Southampton’s number six. He was replaced by Luke Freeman just before the interval and Luke, still looking for his first Arsenal goal was to have a telling contribution on the game.
The second half began at a rapid pace, as Southampton recieved a penalty just two minutes into the half after a controversial decision from the referee. Rodgers appeared to get some of the ball, but the referee thought otherwise. Steve Bould was dismissed from his position in the dugout after his reaction to the decision. Up stepped the Saints no.9 who sent Szczesny the wrong way and tucked the ball into the net.
Arsenal needed to respond, and they did. Just ten minutes after conceding the penalty, Luke Freeman latched onto a loose ball following a poor clearance from Southampton from a corner. The former Gillingham youngster managed to swivel past a player and dispatch a low stinging drive into the right hand corner of the net off the post. It was his first goal in Arsenal colours, but he wasn’t done just yet.
Southampton weren’t disheartened and managed to get themselves back in the game once again. Rene Steer committed a foul inside the area and was booked as the referee pointed to the spot once more. This time, however, Arsenal could have no complaints as he certainly brought him down. The Saints no.9 did exactly what he did before and scored to close the gap to 3-2.
Arsenal put the game beyond doubt with two late goals. First, Barazite smashed an effort into the back of the net for his hat-trick, and then Luke Freeman got on the scoresheet again two minutes later as he latched on to Rene Steer’s ball and headed it home into the back of the net. It was job done for Arsenal and a memorable day for Luke.
The result meant that Arsenal closed the gap at the top of the table and they now face two consecutive away games, against Crystal Palce and Norwich.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Ogogo, Bartley, Rodgers(c), Steer, Eastmond, Frimpong, Dunne, Thomas, Watt, Barazite.
Subs: Freeman (for Watt, 44), Cruise (for Eastmond, 83). Not used Rasmussen, Ayling.
HOW THEY LINED UP:
The u-16s were also in action against Southampton and enjoyed a convincing 4-0 victory.
In terms of injury news, Sanchez Watt ended up with concussion but should be back for the Crystal Palace game next week. He looked a little dazed, but it’s nothing serious. Also, Jeorge Bird’s Arsenal Youth blog can exclusively reveal that Rui Fonte is just one week away from a recovery after suffering an allergic reaction in addition to his broken nose against Birmingham. He was back in training today.
So, the u-18s are back to winning ways and another three points against Crystal Palace next week would see them step up the chase for the title.