U21 Premier League
Norwich 2 (Loza, Fox (pen)) Arsenal 4 (Akpom, Eisfeld (2), Olsson)
Arsenal U21s recorded a 4-2 victory over Norwich City in an entertaining game at Carrow Road this evening, with Thomas Eisfeld the undisputed star of the show for the young Gunners as the 19-year-old found the net in either half. Chuba Akpom and Kristoffer Olsson were also on the scoresheet for Arsenal, although a Jamar Loza strike and a penalty from David Fox ensured that they could not rest on their laurels.
Terry Burton made several alterations from the side that was beaten by West Ham United last time out, with Damian Martinez, Samir Bihmoutine, Jernade Meade and Alfred Mugabo coming into the starting line-up, whilst first-years Jack Jebb and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill made the bench, the latter receiving his first call-up at this level.
Arsenal were without the sidelined Nico Yennaris, Zak Ansah, Jordan Wynter and Kyle Ebecilio, the latter having been ruled out for up to three months. Isaac Hayden, meanwhile, was suspended having accumulated five yellow cards this season, whilst Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral were on international duty with Spain U19s.
subs: Jeffrey, Monteiro (for Bihmoutine, 84), Jebb (for Angha, 90), Ormonde-Ottewill (for Mugabo, 58), Charles-Cook.
Norwich’s line-up contained a smattering of first-team experience, including Leon Barnett and Marc Tierney, but, overall, it was a far younger side than the one which took a point from Underhill when these sides met just over two months ago.
A slow start ensued as both sides adjusted to their surroundings but, despite some pressure from the home side early on which forced Martin Angha into an intelligent intervention, it was Arsenal who took the lead with 14 minutes on the clock when the alert Akpom did well to close down Norwich goalkeeper Declan Rudd and immediately reaped the benefits as the ball cannoned off the striker and into the net for his third goal at this level, and, of those strikes, this was certainly the most fortuitous.
Luck, or fate, whatever you want to call it, even itself out less than 60 seconds later when Norwich scored via an avoidable Arsenal mistake. Serge Gnabry, who is familiar with this stage, having made his Premier League debut here last month, squandered possession cheaply in a dangerous position and Jamar Loza took full advantage, sweeping a well-struck effort past the helpless Martinez.
Arsenal looked to atone for their erroneous ways, and came close to doing so when Akpom and Eisfeld demonstrated their impressive understanding, with the latter firing over following a swift interchange between the promising young pair.
Akpom then wasted two chances to double his tally in quick succession, first seeing a shot well saved by Rudd, then shooting over following good work down the left flank from Bihmoutine. Arsenal’s pressure finally paid off when Gnabry made up for his earlier misjudgement by slotting through his compatriot, Eisfeld, who found the net once more with unerring accuracy.
Gnabry, who was certainly growing into the game by this point, then saw his effort repelled by Rudd, before Norwich, having threatened intermittently, caused danger in the Arsenal penalty area when an ambitious long-range strike from Joshua Murphy whistled just wide.
Arsenal resumed control after the break, however, and seemingly put the result beyond all doubt when Eisfeld scored his second of the evening shortly after the re-start with a controlled finish that Rudd could do nothing about, with the strike taking his tally to seven goals in eight starts for the U21s this season.
Ormonde-Ottewill then replaced the limping Mugabo for his U21 debut, before Murphy forced Martinez into a good save following a mistake by Angha.
Norwich then began to pile on the pressure, and quickly set about reducing Arsenal’s advantage. Hajrovic brought down the dangerous Murphy in the box and David Fox converted the subsequent penalty to make it 3-2, but a quick-fire strike by Olsson, an overdue first at this level for the young Swede, which came as a result of a superb cross from Angha, meant that Burton could relax on the sidelines.
Gnabry came close to making it a familiar scoreline of 5-2 late on, whilst proceedings ended on a sad note as the impressive Angha was stretchered off having sustained a serious-looking injury, but the game had already been won by then, thanks in no small part to Eisfeld’s brilliance and his unerring composure in front of goal.
On Saturday, Arsenal U18s lost 4-0 away to their Norwich counterparts, with the young Gunners’ misery compounded by the sending off of left-back Arinse Uade for two bookable offences. They play West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, with Newcastle United to follow in the FA Youth Cup next week.
subs: Huddart, Moore, Brown, Boadu.