U21 Premier League Elite Round
Manchester United 2 Arsenal 2
Chuba Akpom scored twice for Arsenal U21s away to Manchester United this evening, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the hosts from sharing the spoils, with Nick Powell and Jesse Lingard finding the net for the Red Devils as Steve Gatting took charge of the U21 side for the first time following Terry Burton’s appointment as Arsenal’s new head of youth development.
Lukasz Fabianski started his first game of the season at any level in goal, whilst there were also starts for Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Isaac Hayden.
subs not used: Shea, Wynter, Bihmoutine, Rees, Neita.
Following a quiet opening five minutes in which neither side carved out a clear-cut opportunity, Akpom seized the initiative to put Arsenal ahead by performing a wonderful piece of skill to work space for himself in the area before firing confidently past Ben Amos to open the scoring.
The lead didn’t last long, however, with Nick Powell, who was operating as a makeshift centre-forward, taking advantage of slack marking to send a powerful header beyond the reach of Fabianski. It could have been 2-1 almost instantly but Isaac Hayden was alert to clear Tom Thorpe’s header off the line, then United did take the lead when Powell shoved off Ignasi Miquel and the ball eventually found its way out to Jesse Lingard, who finished emphatically.
Thorpe was denied by Fabianski and an effort from Ryan Tunnicliffe clipped the crossbar following a good cross from Marnick Vermijl as United took the ascendancy, but Arsenal soon restored parity in what was developing into an enthralling encounter.
Serge Gnabry cut inside to find Conor Henderson, who launched a typically ferocious effort from distance which swerved and was unable to be held by Amos, who parried it straight into the path of Akpom. The striker, who has been accused of lacking calmness in front of goal, made no such mistake on this occasion as he swiftly levelled proceedings with a firm effort.
Thorpe had another header stopped by Fabianski, and Gnabry and Henderson both came close to putting Arsenal back in front prior to the interval.
The second half, by contrast, was a much more scrappier affair, with neither side succeeding in gaining a stranglehold on proceedings. Henderson, who impressed with his diligent passing, saw a free-kick deflected just wide, before Amos received a yellow card after rushing out of his goal and catching Akpom with his stray elbow.
Eisfeld wasted the resultant free-kick, with Tunnicliffe responding with a scuffed shot wide at the other end. Akpom could have made it 3-2 but directed his header just wide following good work from Ormonde-Ottewill down the left flank, but Adnan Januzaj continued to pose a threat for United, seeing a deflected effort go wide.
Fabianski was then almost caught out by a cross-cum-shot from substitute Sean McGinty, but thankfully the defender’s effort landed on the roof of the Arsenal net, before the Polish stopper had to be alert to smother an effort from Jesse Lingard soon afterwards. Gnabry and Isaac Hayden both came close in the dying embers in front of a watching Alex Ferguson, but in the end a draw was perhaps the right outcome of a game in which both sides had provided maximum effort.