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.
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.
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.