U21 Premier League- Game 4
Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 2 (Akpom 28, 85)
Chuba Akpom continued his mightily impressive start to the season by scoring both goals as Arsenal U21s beat Aston Villa 2-0 at Villa Park this evening.
In a game televised on Sky Sports, Arsenal caught the eye with some slick passing moves and merited their victory, even though Villa threatened with increasing regularity in the second-half.
There were numerous positives to take from an Arsenal perspective, with Akpom and captain Isaac Hayden delivering stellar showings, whilst Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin both completed 90 minutes. Goalkeeper Damian Martinez, meanwhile, was assured on his first start at any level this season.
subs not used: Macey, Moore, Ajayi, Jebb, Iwobi.
Villa, in front of a small crowd, had the first sight of goal, with Jerell Sellers shooting straight at Martinez, but it wasn’t long until Steve Gatting’s side, who remain unbeaten this season, took control of proceedings.
Akpom, along with Hayden and Hector Bellerin, took part in the first-team photocall at London Colney before making the trip to Birmingham. The striker is yet to be officially promoted to the senior squad but he could hardly have championed his cause any more tonight.
Akpom demonstrated that there is far more to his game than just goals when he played a neat pass through to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, whose dipping effort struck the crossbar.
That served as a warning sign for Villa, with both of Arsenal’s full-backs, Bellerin and the reinvigorated Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, attacking with increasing regularity.
Martinez had to make a couple of interventions early on, with the Argentinian demonstrating the calm demeanour that has seen him promoted to the first-team set-up.
Arsenal, though, were coming ever closer to scoring. Coquelin did well to win the ball back and find Maitland-Niles, who in turn threaded the ball through to Akpom. The England U20 international was denied by a sliding defensive challenge, but he managed to find the net shortly afterwards.
It was a goal much of his own making. Akpom hassled Villa captain Lewis Kinsella out of possession, won the ball and then rounded the Villa goalkeeper before scoring.
It was a hard-earned strike and Akpom could have doubled his tally before the interval when Diaby found him with a long-range pass, but he failed to unleash a shot on this occasion.
With Coquelin and Diaby providing an effective shield in midfield and the authoritative Hayden marshalling the defence, Villa found it difficult to muster any attacking momentum, despite the best efforts of the sprightly Callum Robinson.
Hayden, this time popping up on the right flank, crossed for Maitland-Niles, who sent a header over.
Gedion Zelalem, who didn’t see much of the ball in the first-half, became increasingly influential in the second period.
The German youth international did well to find Crowley, who shot straight at the goalkeeper. Diaby then played a trademark raking pass into the path of Bellerin, with the ball eventually falling to Akpom, but the threat was cleared before he could get a shot away.
Villa gained considerable momentum as the game wore on, with Courtney Wildin almost capitalising after Bellerin was caught upfield, but the win was secured with five minutes remaining when Zelalem unlocked the defence and found Akpom, who finished well with the assistance of the post.
Akpom already has six goals in four U21 games this season and, as has been mentioned previously, appears a suitable alternative to Yaya Sanogo at present. The acquisition of Danny Welbeck may mean he’ll have to wait a little longer for his chance, but the 18 year old will certainly receive his opportunity eventually.
Arsenal, as a whole, remain unbeaten so far in Divison 2 of the U21 Premier League, having taken a commendable 10 points out of a possible 12. Newcastle United are next up at Borehamwood, with Theo Walcott a candidate to feature as he steps up his return from injury.