Arsenal under-18s cruised to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace at London Colney this morning.
Prolific marksman Benik Afobe set the Gunners on their way with a first-half brace and then Luke Freeman emulated his feat in the second-period as Bould’s boys look set to finish the season in style.
The Gunners were without the injured Oguzhan Ozyakup, Ignasi Miquel and Jonas Rasmussen but could call upon French duo Francis Coquelin and Gilles Sunu. James Shea came in for Wojciech Szczesny in goal.
subs: Ansah, Meade, Brislen-Hall.
The Gunners started brightly but found a resillient Palace difficult to break down.
Gilles Sunu embarked on a lung-busting burst down the right and squared for Afobe who saw his shot saved. Sunu, who was brimming with confidence, then almost scored himself after an equisite turn but couldn’t find the finish.
Luke Freeman, who also had a strong start to the game, had a shot saved but it wasn’t long before the Gunners were celebrating.
Francis Coquelin took a corner from the left, Afobe,unmarked, rose highest and headed into the back of the net for his eighth goal of the season.
From there on in there was no way back for Palace, no matter how hard they tried.
Arsenal continued to carve out chance after chance with Freeman twice coming close to extending the advantage. First, he glanced a header narrowly wide then he had an instinctive overhead kick easily caught.
Roarie Deacon, who revelled at cutting inside from the right-wing, headed wide after a great cross from Sunu.
Sunu, who couldn’t be faulted for work ethic, set up Freeman who was unlucky to see his effort scrape the post. The former Gillingham youngster, who signed his first professional contract last week, then had a shot saved after he showed good initiative to chase down a loose ball.
But the Gunners would double their advantage before the break and, suprise,suprise, it was Sunu who created it, laying the ball on a plate for Afobe who finished with aplomb.
Despite their blistering start, Steve Bould still picked faults in his players’ performances at the break, with Rhema Obed in particular coming in for some harsh treatment.
Palace came out for the second-period with renewed vigour and had a shot drilled wide. Shea was then called into action after Obed had been caught out upfield.
Arsenal were finding chances harder to come by, with Freeman’s scuffed shot wide the only notable attacking move so far.
Bould looked to his bench for inspiration and made a double change. Schoolboys George Brislen-Hall and Jernade Meade entered the fray in place of Gilles Sunu and Sam Byles.
Pint-sized Meade partnered his lookalike Francis Coquelin in the centre of midfield, whilst Brislen-Hall went to left-back with Cedric Evina moving forward to the left-wing.
Arsenal were occasionally troubled by Palace but not overly so, with Anton Blackwood on hand to mop up after an uncharacteristic error from his fellow centre-back Daniel Boateng.
A late flourish would ensure that Arsenal took all three points. Evina’s low cross evaded substitute Zak Ansah but the alert Freeman was on hand to steer it home.
Jernade Meade, who has made quite an impression for himself at u-16 level, marked his debut with a stunning assist for the final goal. A defence-splitting pass was latched onto by Freeman who drove it home to seal the win.
PLAYER RATINGS (average: 6.6)
Made some good saves but perhaps could have caught the ball more rather than parrying it.
Often got exposed after his marauding runs forward and his passing wasn’t the best.
One mistake late on but could be forgiven after a solid display. Easy to understand comparisons with Touré.
Some good tackles but was exposed far too often.
Got forward well and delivered some decent crosses.
Made some good inside runs and involved in neat passing moves.
Quietly and effectively went about his business making some solid challenges.
Didn’t get forward as much as he would of liked but played some killer through-balls.
Luke Freeman-8-JB’S MAN OF THE MATCH
A close run thing between him, Afobe and Sunu for man of the match but just shades it for work rate and effort.
Took his goals well to take his tally for the season up to nine in eight starts.
Tired after the break, but fantastic running, dribbling and chance creation skills.
Jernade Meade-7 (for Sam Byles, 65)
Impressed on debut and played a delightful through-ball for Freeman’s second and Arsenal’s fourth.
George Brislen-Hall-6 (for Gilles Sunu,65)
Slotted in seamlessly at left-back.
Zak Ansah-5 (for Benik Afobe, 79)
Couldn’t really impose himself on the game.