U21 Premier League- West Ham 1 Arsenal 1
Chris Willock hit a late equaliser as Arsenal U21s salvaged a point from their trip to face West Ham United at Upton Park this evening.
The Gunners ran out 5-0 victors against West Ham earlier in the season, but the Hammers were much more assured on this occasion and took the lead through Alex Pike.
However, Willock’s 81st minute strike earned Arsenal a point to contribute towards their promotion push.
Coach Steve Gatting gave starts to Dan Crowley and Tyrell Robinson, with Kaylen Hinds and Marc Bola being named on the bench.
West Ham, meanwhile, included Reece Oxford and Pedro Obiang in their line-up.
Reine Adelaide-Crowley-C. Willock
Subs: Huddart, Hinds (for Crowley), Bennacer (for Iwobi), Mavididi, M. Bola.
Arsenal started brightly, with Willock and Alex Iwobi seeing a lot of the ball early on.
The young Gunners then created the first notable chance of the evening, with Crowley, back in his favoured central attacking midfield position, driving forwards and finding Donyell Malen, but the striker’s effort was saved by Raphael Spiegel.
Arsenal then had captain Julio Pleguezuelo to thank for making a crucial intervention to stop a West Ham attack. The hosts found the net shortly afterwards but Janaai Gordon’s effort was ruled out for offside.
West Ham started to grow in confidence, with Lewis Page shooting wide, but Arsenal still had their fair share of chances as the half wore on. Firstly Ben Sheaf, a former West Ham player, saw his free-kick strike the wall before Iwobi produced a clever piece of skill only to send his subsequent effort over the crossbar.
Sheaf and Malen then drew good saves from Spiegel, but it was West Ham who took the lead before the interval, with Alex Pike’s effort getting the better of Matt Macey following an Arsenal mistake.
Arsenal attempted to respond instantly, with Iwobi finding Jeff Reine-Adelaide, but the latter’s effort was saved and West Ham went into the break in the ascendancy.
West Ham started the second half in superb fashion, with Macey forced to make a series of impressive saves.
The Hammers then had another goal ruled out for offside when Djair Parfitt-Williams found the net, but Arsenal gradually began to re-assert themselves on proceedings with Sheaf and Iwobi combining well before the latter was closed down.
Malen then came close to scoring on a couple of occasions, while Crowley was becoming increasingly influential, with the midfielder delivering a dangerous cross into the penalty area, which unfortunately was without a recipient.
Arsenal then made a double change as they chased an equaliser, with Hinds and Ismael Bennacer entering the fray in place of Iwobi and Crowley.
Despite the presence of Stephy Mavididi on the bench, coach Steve Gatting persisted with Malen up front and the forward came close to levelling matters with a clever lofted effort not too dissimilar to his effort against Brighton & Hove Albion recently.
On this occasion, however, his effort went just over the target, with Arsenal left frustrated once again.
Their persistence finally paid off, however, with Willock bursting down the left flank before cutting inside and sending an effort beyond the reach of Spiegel to make it 1-1.
Arsenal even had an opportunity to win the game in the dying embers after Reine-Adelaide was hauled down, but Sheaf’s free-kick was blocked.
Arsenal host Aston Villa next week in their final game of 2015.