U21 Premier League
Bolton Wanderers 1 Arsenal 3 (Ormonde-Ottewill 10, Iwobi 73, Gnabry 77)
It has been a stop-start season for Serge Gnabry, with the dynamic winger having endured several setbacks in his attempts to make a full recovery from the injury he suffered last season, but today there was a moment for the youngster to savour as he applied the finishing touch against Bolton Wanderers to help Arsenal U21s secure their second victory in succession.
There has been much debate about the future of the Arsenal academy in recent days after the U18s finished bottom of their section, but the U21s, despite not being able to achieve promotion back to the top tier, have at least had some positive results this season and today Gnabry was joined on the scoresheet by two Hale End products in Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Alex Iwobi.
The latter has had a surprisingly productive season in front of goal- today’s strike was his ninth of the season at this level and he will be looking to reach double figures when the young Gunners conclude their season at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers next week.
Bolton equalised through Jordan Lussey shortly after Ormonde-Ottewill had given Arsenal the lead, but Steve Gatting’s side managed to battle back to secure their second victory in succession.
There were two changes from the side that beat Brighton & Hove Albion last week. Deyan Iliev returned from suspension to start in goal, whilst, in the absence of George Dobson, Renny Smith was drafted in at right-back, with Julio Pleguezuelo moving across to centre-back. Aaron Eyoma was named amongst the substitutes in preference to Marc Bola.
Subs: Robinson (for Crowley, 50), Eyoma (for Zelalem, 68), Lipman (for Iwobi, 86). Not used: Kamara, Macey.
The game got off to a rather slow start, with neither side creating a clear-cut chance in the opening ten minutes. The first opportunity of note fell to Sanmi Odelusi, but the Arsenal defence did well to close him down and force him to rush his shot.
Shortly afterwards Arsenal took the lead, with Ormonde-Ottewill finding the net with well-struck effort.
Bolton were level within two minutes, however, with Odelusi causing problems down the left flank before finding Lussey, whose shot was beyond the reach of Iliev.
Odelusi was certainly Bolton’s most dangerous outlet, with the 21 year old then weaving his way past three players before shooting just wide.
Bolton then had a penalty appeal turned down as they increased the pressure on the Arsenal defence, but Gatting’s team provided a reminder of their own attacking threat when Iwobi played a neat ball through to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who just lost his footing at the crucial moment when well placed.
Iliev then did well to gather the ball from a corner, with Bolton subsequently enduring a moment of good fortune as Matija Boben’s clearance went over his own goalkeeper, but, thankfully for the youngster, the ball struck the crossbar rather than going in.
Gnabry sent an effort wide as the half drew to a close but Arsenal, having had much defending to do in the opening period, were grateful for the whistle.
Bolton continued to dominate in terms of chances created early in the second-half, with Niall Maher seeing his effort cleared.
Bolton then introduced substitute Jamie Thomas into the fray and the change very nearly proved to be an inspired one as he sent an effort just wide.
Arsenal hadn’t created too many chances during the course of the match, but their intelligence in front of goal paid dividends in the latter stages against a tiring Bolton defence.
They took the lead when Iwobi cut inside from the right flank and nutmegged the bewildered Bolton goalkeeper Harry Campbell before finding the net.
Gnabry inflicted further misery on the Bolton defenders as he confidently got the better of Campbell in a one-on-one situation with 13 minutes remaining.
Iliev was called into action in the dying moments, with the goalkeeper making a good intervention to deny Thomas, but Arsenal’s lead was secure and, given all the talk about the academy of late, this victory is a welcome one.