Akpom penalty gives Arsenal U21s victory over Reading in season opener


U21 Premier League- GAME 1

Reading 0 Arsenal 1 (AKPOM 15 (PEN))

A first-half Chuba Akpom penalty ensured that Arsenal U21s started the campaign with a deserved victory away to Reading. The young Gunners were on top throughout this encounter in Basingstoke as they gained a measure of revenge over the team that knocked them out of the U21 Premier League Cup last season.

Ignasi Miquel recovered from injury in time to captain the side as an over-age player, whilst second-years Dan Crowley, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Tafari Moore were all afforded starts.

MACEY

MOORE-AJAYI-MIQUEL-ORMONDE OTTEWILL

HAYDEN

MAITLAND NILES-ZELALEM-OLSSON-CROWLEY

AKPOM

SUBS: ILIEV, O’CONNOR, KAMARA, JEBB, IWOBI.

Arsenal will be facing less exalted company in the second division this season, but the team, jointly coached by Steve Gatting and Carl Laraman, should be confident of earning progression to the top tier for the next campaign.

They had to deal with some early Reading pressure as Nana Owusu shot wide and Semi Ajayi did well to clear after Liam Kelly tested Matt Macey.

The young Gunners were soon in the ascendancy, however. They had created a half-chance when Maitland-Niles did well to find Gedion Zelalem, but the latter’s effort lacked conviction.

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Europe Akpom's goal was his 20th for Arsenal at U21 level in 31 appearances

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Europe
Akpom’s goal was his 20th for Arsenal at U21 level in 31 appearances

It proved to be a warning sign and it was one that Reading didn’t heed. Pierce Sweeney was adjudged to have handled in the area and Akpom stepped up to take the subsequent penalty, comfortably dispatching the ball past goalkeeper Daniel Lincoln.

Reading’s response was commendable, with Dominic Samuel shooting over, but it was still Arsenal who created the vast majority of the chances. Maitland-Niles was causing numerous problems with his pace and trickery, whilst Akpom was presented with the opportunity to double his tally but shot straight at Lincoln on this occasion.

Arsenal came perilously close to making it 2-0 before the interval. First Zelalem unlocked the Reading defence with a precise through-ball but nothing substantial came of it before Crowley, in the final action of the first-half, forced a hurried Lincoln into a good save from a free-kick.

Arsenal continued to dominate after the interval, with Crowley doing well to find Akpom, whose header was repelled by Lincoln. Akpom was through on goal again just after the hour mark after he raced onto a precise pass from Isaac Hayden, but Lincoln was alert to deny the striker once more.

Reading marginally improved as the game wore on, with Tarique Fosu-Henry particularly dangerous, but Arsenal held on to secure all three points.

Arsenal continue their campaign against Derby County at Borehamwood on Thursday evening.

6 comments

  1. Were you at the game? It must be hard to go to all the away games so I want to know if the report I read is written by someone that saw the match

  2. I was at the game. It was comfortable for Arsenal against a highly rated Reading side. Arsenal were a bit sluggish at times – still a touch of pre-season. They worked the ball well but were let down too often by the final ball, a lack if a decent cross, or a lack of composure in front of goal by Akpom at least 3 times.

    On individuals Zelalem disappointed – he seemed disinterested and slow. Olsson was a bit anonymous. Hayden impressed with some of his driving runs – he looked strong on the ball. Maitland-niles was fast but lacked an end product. But Crowley impressed most without doing anything spectacular. He was busy all over the pitch constantly looking for the ball and trying to make things happen.

    1. I think zelalem feels he is above this level and to be honest he thrives around better players. Olsson needs a loan spell, bellerin needs official promotion or a loan. Miquel needs the support of the manager or needs a move. I am unsure about akpom and his current level. He is certainly not ready for the first team, but he hasn’t shown enough to make the first team at of a championship team either.

      Ajayi and macey also need to experience a loan this season.

      1. To be fair to Akpom and rather than judging him selectively on what sounds was probably not his best game, I think he will have no problem getting playing time on a championship level team at this point and even starting on some. He is at that level. If he was not already on Arsenal’s books and was at one of these championship teams, he’d probably have lower level Premiership teams sniffing around and tracking his progress by now.

        What will come of that is hard to say, but Arsenal should really try and loan him out at a bit higher level than before: better team in Championship or even a team on the continent.

  3. If he thinks he is above this level then he will not make it as a professional footballer …. he has ability from what I read but its also about hard work… he needs to knuckle down and become a great player…. improve on the weak areas of his game.

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