U21 Premier League
Brighton 0 Arsenal 4 (Kamara, Akpom (3))
Prior to this game Arsenal U21s hadn’t played in over a month, but they showed no signs of rustiness as they comfortably swatted aside Brighton & Hove Albion at The Amex Stadium. Chuba Akpom scored a hat-trick, taking his tally for the season to nine goals, to add to Glen Kamara’s early strike.
With Matt Macey currently with the first-team squad, Ryan Huddart started in goal. Elsewhere, Chiori Johnson and Tyrell Robinson made their first starts at this level in the full-back positions. Brighton included former Arsenal youngster Tom Dallison in their team.
subs: Keto, Dobson, Sheaf, Willock (for Crowley, 79), Mavididi.
Dallison would have been familiar with the attributes of the Arsenal players but there was very little that he or any of his team-mates could do to prevent the onslaught inflicted upon them by the young Gunners in the first-half.
The opening goal came from a rather unlikely source and the manner in which it was converted was something of a surprise too. Kamara hadn’t previously scored at U21 level, but he did so in the ninth minute with a well-taken effort from the edge of the penalty area.
It was 2-0 just eleven minutes later and it won’t surprise anybody to learn that Dan Crowley was the architect, with the midfielder playing a clever pass into the path of Chuba Akpom, who finished well.
Robinson, who is usually deployed as a winger, got forward well from left back several times and on one such occasion he forced Christian Walton into a good save. Crowley then sent a free-kick over the crossbar as Arsenal continued their dominance.
The game was effectively over as a contest in the 34th minute when Robinson found Akpom and the striker cleverly lofted the ball over the on-rushing Walton.
It was irrepressible football at times from Arsenal and they could have extended their lead even further before the break had Gedion Zelalem and Alex Iwobi not squandered presentable chances. Ainsley Maitland-Niles then linked well with Iwobi before rattling a post on the stroke of half-time.
Brighton attempted to muster a response early in the second-half but there was little they could do to test Huddart in the Arsenal goal.
Instead most of the action occurred down the other end, with Akpom coming close to completing his hat-trick on two occasions. Jesse Starkey did finally test Huddart, but the tall goalkeeper was equal to the attempt.
Akpom continued to be frustrated in his search for his third goal, and Arsenal’s fourth. The 19 year old had one shot saved and another blocked before seeing an effort cleared off the line. Walton then made an excellent close-range stop to prevent Crowley from finding the net.
Danny Holla wasted a good chance for Brighton, with Arsenal then introducing Chris Willock for his competitive debut for the U21s.
Maitland-Niles embarked on a mazy run but was unable to get the better of Walton, who was trying his utmost to keep the score down. Arsenal’s continued dominance was eventually rewarded when they were given a penalty and, given the circumstances, it was no surprise that Akpom stepped up to take it. The England youth international finally managed to beat Walton for the third time as he claimed the match ball.
This result sees Arsenal remain in the upper echelons of their group, with promotion back to the top tier next season looking increasingly probable. This was a good opportunity for Johnson and Robinson to gain experience of U21 football, whilst Akpom will be hoping that his treble will lead to him receiving more first-team opportunities in the near future.