Martinez heroics help Arsenal U21s secure draw at Fulham


U21 Premier League- Game 4

Fulham 0 Arsenal 0

Arsenal U21s preserved their unbeaten start to the new campaign with a hard-fought draw away to Fulham this evening, but they owed much to goalkeeper Damian Martinez, who made several superb saves to keep the opposition at bay. Whilst Arsenal missed several goalscoring chances of their own at the other end, Fulham repeatedly peppered Martinez’s goal, but the 21 year old, who has been demoted to the role of fourth-choice custodian following the loan signing of Emiliano Viviano, was equal to everything that was asked of him.

With several players left out due to their Capital One Cup excursions last night and a plethora of injury problems to contend with, Steve Gatting made no fewer than nine changes to the side that started the last U21 fixture, with only Daniel Boateng and new signing Semi Ajayi retaining their places from the team that saw off West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium. There were first starts at this level this season for Martinez and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, whilst Alex Iwobi also featured from the offset despite being amongst the substitutes for the first-team last night.

On the bench, first-year scholars Elliot Wright, Renny Smith and Jamaal Raage earned their first competitive call-ups at this level.

Martinez

Boateng-O’Connor-Ajayi-Ormonde Ottewill

Kamara-Jebb

Maitland Niles-Iwobi-Jeffrey

Lipman

subs:  Smith (for Jeffrey, 82). Not used: Iliev, Wright, Raage.

Fulham called upon the exotically-named Buomesca Tue Na Bangna, who made his Premier League debut against Chelsea last weekend, and it was the hosts who started the brightest at Motspur Park, with Moussa Dembele, who is of no relation to his Tottenham Hotspur namesake, seeing his effort palmed away by the alert Martinez.

Arsenal had to bide their time before they could create their first opening, but when they did so they almost scored, with Ajayi seeing a shot cleared off the line by a frantic Fulham defence. The former Charlton Athletic defender has demonstrated his eye for goal several times already during his early appearances for the club and came extremely close to scoring on this occasion.

Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Anthony Jeffrey then shot wide as Gatting’s side sought to increase the pressure, and they were unfortunate not to take the lead when Austin Lipman found Iwobi, who shot straight at Fulham goalkeeper Jesse Joronen.

Arsenal continued to carve out the chances as the interval approached, with Jack Jebb shooting just wide, but Fulham responded with a couple of opportunities of their own, the most notable of which was squandered by Dembele.

Early in the second half Martinez twice had to be alert to deny the lively Chris David and Arsenal were again indebted to the Argentinian goalkeeper when he made a crucial save to keep out Dembele’s effort on the hour mark.

Arsenal’s chances, when they came, were wasted, with Iwobi and Lipman both firing over, and concerns arose when Fulham elected to introduce the promising Muamer Tankovic off the bench. The playmaker immediately set about his task of tormenting the Arsenal defence, but, after receiving the ball from Dembele, could only succeed in directing his effort off target.

Martinez’s heroics continued with another superb save, this time to thwart Dembele, but Arsenal still continued to attack when they could and came perilously close to scoring when first-year scholar Ainsley Maitland-Niles rattled the post with a fierce effort.

Martinez made another vital stop, before Ajayi then made a last ditch saving tackle to deny Josh Passley. As the clock ticked down, Gatting handed an U21 debut to midfielder Smith, who joined from Chelsea towards the end of last season.

Fulham were not finished yet, however, and the Cottagers came close to scoring three times in the dying stages, which included Tankovic almost snatching victory with a spectacular overhead kick, but Arsenal just about managed to hold on for a point, thanks in no small part to Martinez.

6 comments

  1. Didn’t get a chance to see the match or highlights, but I’ve been curious about Ajayi . Sounds like he was solid–anything else to add Jeorge?
    Cheers!

  2. Loaning GKs always seems a tricky one. And we haven’t been the best at finding loan deals that result in regular 90 mins recently.

    Ideally I think Martinez would benefit from a couple of loan deals. Maybe one on the continent to improve how he deals with the pressure of playing week-in week-out. Then a domestic loan to get used to the rough and tumble of the English game. Although these things seldom work out this way.

  3. Solid performance by the two 16 year olds, O’Connor and Maitland-Niles, keep it up boys, not much gets said about you both but your progression has been great for first year scholars !

  4. just saw the highlights. this might be wrong considering i wasnt privy to the whole match but it looks like it was a decent fluid attacking performance as well in addition to the defensive performance. I’ve figured out why Lipman doesnt score so often, he’s a a second striker type, great on the ball, fantastic engine, can drop into the midfield to collect passes and has decent vision and passing to provide for his teammates, exactly my kind of forward. I really hope he improves his finishing cause i think he could have a good future in the game.

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