U21 Premier League- Game 16
Bolton Wanderers 2 (Lester 68, Kellett 86) Arsenal 1 (Eisfeld 62)
Arsenal U21s suffered their second defeat in quick succession as they lost to Bolton Wanderers this evening despite taking the lead through Thomas Eisfeld. There was a marked improvement from the disappointing display against Tottenham Hostpur, but the young Gunners failed to build upon Eisfeld’s goal and were eventually punished by a hard-working Bolton team.
There were two changes to the team that lost at White Hart Lane, with Hector Bellerin and Zak Ansah coming into the side. Dan Crowley, meanwhile, made the bench following his impressive performance for the U18s against Blackburn at the weekend.
subs: Lipman (for Ansah, 77), Crowley (for Zelalem, 81). Not used: Huddart, Jebb, Iwobi.
Bolton, like Arsenal, have struggled for consistency at U21 level this season, but it was the hosts who created the first notable opportunity when Arsenal squandered possession and Chris Lester shot wide. It was to prove to be a warning sign, with Lester pestering the Arsenal defence all evening.
Arsenal gradually began to garner some attacking momentum, with Jon Toral playing an incisive pass into the path of Ansah, whose shot was off target, before Isaac Hayden, who was sent off against Tottenham on Friday, came a little closer just moments later.
Hayden has been playing in a more advanced position than normal in recent weeks and the 19 year old was involved in Arsenal’s next attacking move as he found Toral, but the experienced Bolton goalkeeper Arran Lee-Barrett was quick off his line to deny the Spaniard.
It was then Bolton’s turn to go close, with Lester finding Tom Walker, who shot just wide of Matt Macey’s far post. Bolton continued to assert themselves, with Macey doing well to push Lester’s fierce strike wide, but Arsenal were still dangerous themselves on the counter and forced Lee-Barrett into action again when Toral latched onto Bellerin’s cross.
The 30-year-old shot-stopper was able to turn the ball over the crossbar, with the two sides remaining level at the interval.
Arsenal started the second-half well at the County Ground, with Hayden finding Ansah, who shot just wide. Their hard work eventually paid dividends in the 62nd minute when Bellerin provided another accurate cross from the right flank and Eisfeld scored with a header to open the scoring. It was the German’s fifth goal of the campaign at this level and his first since January.
The lead lasted just six minutes, however, with Bolton exploiting Arsenal’s high line and Zach Clough finding the ever-dangerous Lester, who beat Macey to equalise.
Bolton then came close to inflicting further damage upon Arsenal, but Macey added to his growing catalogue of impressive saves by denying Luke Woodland.
Arsenal then introduced Austin Lipman and Crowley as they sought to increase their attacking momentum. It had the opposite effect, however, as Bolton took the lead with just four minutes remaining after Andy Kellett weaved his way through the Arsenal defence and beat Macey with a well-placed effort.
Arsenal could muster little in response and slipped to their sixth defeat of the season. They have five games remaining this campaign, with their next assignment a trip to face Everton on Thursday.