U21 Premier League- Game 14
Arsenal 5 (Akpom 8, 49 (pen), 84) Olsson 30, Ansah 81) West Ham United 3 (Brown 17, 47, Potts 79)
Arsenal U21s began a schedule of eight games in less than a month with an incredible 5-3 victory over West Ham United at London Colney this afternoon. Chuba Akpom, on his return from his loan spell at Coventry City, struck a hat-trick, with Kristoffer Olsson and Zak Ansah, the latter making his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury, also finding the net. Former Arsenal youngster Jordan Brown scored twice for West Ham, and Daniel Potts’ excellent strike looked to have sealed a point for the visitors before Arsenal’s late rally.
This was Arsenal’s first league fixture at this level for more than a month, but, with the majority of the players having been involved in other competitions, there was little sign of any rustiness. Other than Akpom’s return, Steve Gatting made several further changes, with Deyan Iliev replacing Matt Macey in goal, whilst, with Julio Pleguezuelo and Tafari Moore on international duty and Hector Bellerin training with the first-team, Leander Siemann was included at right-back.
subs: Kamara (for Zelalem, 72), Ansah (for Iwobi, 72). Not used: Lipman, Jebb, Macey.
Both sides strung together some early passing moves, but it was Arsenal who landed the first punch, with Akpom connecting with Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill’s cross to open the scoring with just eight minutes gone.
The striker has evidently improved as a consequence of his loan spells with Brentford and Coventry City and, although there have been some calls for him to be immediately elevated to the first-team squad, he certainly seemed determined to impress today.
Just moments earlier Akpom had come close after rounding goalkeeper Ginez Guzman, but shot wide. The opening stages were certainly eventful, with West Ham attempting to mount a response instantly through Matthias Fanimo, who shot just wide.
West Ham eventually levelled and it came from a familiar source in Jordan Brown, who elected to leave Arsenal in the summer in favour of a move to the East London club. The goal was of his own making as he worked his way into the penalty area before firing a shot beyond the reach of the stranded Deyan Iliev.
Brown almost doubled his tally just three minutes later but his powerful header struck a post. It was then Arsenal’s turn to attack in this end-to-end game, with Akpom seeing a strike ruled out for offside before Arsenal restored their advantage when Alex Iwobi did well to find Kristoffer Olsson, who scored his first goal at this level this season to put Arsenal 2-1 up.
It could have been 3-1 before the break, but first Jon Toral and then Akpom squandered inviting opportunities. Arsenal were duly punished, with Brown instead making it 2-2 just moments after the re-start when he converted from Blair Turgott’s cross.
This hugely eventful game then took yet another twist, with a penalty being awarded after Akpom was fouled in the area. The striker took it himself and converted emphatically for his eleventh goal of the campaign.
Arsenal looked to take the lead again, with Thomas Eisfeld coming close after incisive link-up play from Eisfeld and Toral. They still had to survive some considerable scares at the other end, however, with Isaac Hayden almost turning the ball into his own net following a cross from Brown.
Akpom seemed intent on getting his hat-trick, but found Guzman in impressive form, with Eisfeld also being denied. Gatting then introduced Glen Kamara and Ansah, but Arsenal’s next chance fell to the wrong man, with Siemann shooting over when well placed.
Once more Arsenal were made to pay, and this time it was Potts who found the net for West Ham, the 19 year old beating Iliev with a superb strike. The goal must have been particularly cherished by Potts, who was stretchered off whilst playing for the Hammers’ first-team at Emirates Stadium last season.
Remarkably, there was even more drama to come and it was rather fitting that Ansah marked his return from injury by scoring what proved to be the decisive goal with a well-angled shot. Akpom then aided his cause for first-team involvement even further by making it 5-3.
For all their frailties at the back, which weren’t helped by the lack of a bonafide defensive-midfielder until Kamara’s introduction, Arsenal were especially effective going forwards, with Toral, Eisfeld and Iwobi all combining to good effect.
Arsenal’s next assignment is at White Hart Lane on Friday night as they take on Tottenham Hotspur, but it will take some time to fully absorb the events of this afternoon.