U21 Premier League
West Ham 4 Arsenal 1 (Monteiro)
Arsenal U21s suffered their first defeat of the campaign this evening as they lost 4-1 to West Ham United. Arsenal took the lead through Elton Monteiro’s first goal at this level, but struggled to cope with a relentless wave of Hammers attacks thereafter.
Terry Burton, as he had promised, made a raft of changes from the side which were held at Underhill by Norwich City on Monday. There had been speculation that Emmanuel Frimpong could make his return from injury, but, as it transpired, there were no first-team faces on show for the Gunners in East London.
Conor Henderson was absent having secured a three month loan deal with Coventry City, whilst James Shea, who was on the bench for the first-team in midweek, came in to start. Meanwhile, at left-back Samir Bihmoutine made his first appearance of the campaign at any level.
subs: Charles-Cook, Eisfeld, Neita, Rees, Bellerin.
Shea was thrust into the thick of things early on as he was forced to deny half chances created by Rob Hall and Matthias Fanimo. Arsenal didn’t take long to respond, though, with the exuberant Gnabry at the heart of things, spreading the ball wide to the ever-dangerous Jernade Meade, whose shot led to a corner.
The resultant set-piece proved to be decisive, with Meade involved again, finding Kristoffer Olsson whose cross from the left was met by Elton Monteiro, who unexpectedly rose to open the scoring with a bullet header.
Arsenal could have doubled their advantage shortly afterwards through Nico Yennaris, who shot just over, but then West Ham restored parity when Hall bore down dangerously on goal and Shea was unable to hold his fierce effort.
The game was now becoming a free-flowing spectacle, with both sides creating chances with some regularity. Arsenal were next to try their luck, with Watt seeing an effort blocked before Blair Turgott, who played for Arsenal as a young schoolboy, threaded through Fanimo and the latter, who seems to have been playing at reserve and youth level for an eternity, put West Ham in front with a stellar strike that Shea was unable to deal with.
Arsenal remained undeterred, though, and continued to carve out chances before the interval, with Kyle Ebecilio coming close on two occasions and Watt then doing well to create space for himself before directing his effort off target. Sead Hajrovic then had to be alert to clear the danger when Monteiro erred to let in Hall, but Watt again came close shortly after the break.
The early exchanges of the second period lacked the fluidity that was present throughout much of the first half, with an ambitious Gnabry effort the most notable incident.
West Ham, though, effectively put the game beyond doubt when Dan Potts pounced on hesitant defending in the Arsenal penalty area to extend the hosts’ advantage. Following that, Arsenal threatened but only in patches, with substitutes Hector Bellerin and Thomas Eisfeld linking well on the right flank, but by this stage West Ham looked by far the most dangerous side, with Turgott coming close to extending West Ham’s advantage even further.
Bellerin and Eisfeld combined again, with the latter forcing a good save from Raphael Spiegel, but Turgott was in an unforgiving mood and made it 4-1 after being slipped through by Fanimo. Shea had to react quickly to prevent an even bigger scoreline, then Bellerin fired over after good work from Olsson.
The same pair combined again late on, but even if they had been able to claw a goal back, any chance of victory had long dissipated for Arsenal.