U21 Premier League
Arsenal 1 (Olsson) West Bromwich Albion 2
Arsenal U21s suffered a defeat to West Bromwich Albion at London Colney this afternoon in their final home fixture of this phase of the competition, despite Swedish midfielder Kristoffer Olsson finding the net again, this time with a superbly-executed free-kick.
There was further good news despite the scoreline as striker Zak Ansah made his return from a lengthy spell on the sidelines as a late substitute, but coach Terry Burton would have been disappointed at the poor defending the allowed Kemar Roofe and Liam O’Neill to put the visitors two goals to the good before the break.
Burton made a raft of changes from the side that beat Norwich City 4-2 on Monday, with six fresh faces coming into the side, including Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral, who returned from international duty, but Serge Gnabry and Thomas Eisfeld were left out.
subs: Ormonde-Ottewill (for Miquel, 11), Ansah (for Akpom, 57), Mugabo (for Toral, 84). Not used: Jeffrey, Martinez.
West Brom got the better of Arsenal at this level in Jack Wilshere’s much-publicised return game at the Hawthorns at the start of last month, and the visitors received a boost early on when Gunners captain Ignasi Miquel was forced to depart early on through injury, with the promising Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill replacing him.
The Baggies seemed buoyed by Miquel’s withdrawal and embarked upon attempting to take the lead, with Yassine El Ghanassy, the scourge of Arsenal in that aforementioned fixture, stealing the ball from Elton Monteiro before bearing down on goal, only to see his effort go wide.
They did take the lead soon enough, though, when Roofe was on hand to take advantage after James Shea failed to hold Bradley Garmston’s dangerous cross.
Arsenal’s initial response was a header from Martin Angha that went wide following Toral’s cross, and further chances were to follow swiftly, with central midfield pair Jernade Meade and Isaac Hayden both trying their luck, unsuccessfully, from distance.
Those misses proved costly as poor defending from a corner enabled O’Neill to double West Brom’s advantage before the break, although Chuba Akpom, Ormonde-Ottewill and Toral all came close to reducing the deficit in the closing stages of the opening period.
Arsenal started the second-half on the front foot, with Hayden again shooting from range, before Ansah was introduced in place of Akpom with 57 minutes played. Ormonde-Ottewill, having only made his debut at this level at Carrow Road on Monday, provided a threat down the left flank with his crosses, but it was Olsson who would revive Arsenal’s hopes of achieving something from this game when, 25 yards out, he curled a superb free-kick, in similar style to his compatriot Sebastian Larsson, past Shane Lewis and into the back of the net.
Having been two goals down, Arsenal very nearly restored parity, with West Brom defender Mani O’Sullivan diverting the ball onto his own crossbar before Ansah, in what would have been a great comeback story, volleyed just over when well placed.
Meade then tested Lewis with a fierce drive before Ansah, who was impressive following his introduction, particularly considering how long he has spent on the sidelines, then saw a headed effort cleared off the line. Nigel Neita, operating on the left flank, almost rescued a point at the death, but Lewis just about managed to scramble the attacker’s effort away.
Arsenal had fought valiantly in the second period and, perhaps because of that, deserved to take something from this game. Poor defending earlier on, however, had handed them what transpired to be too difficult a task.