Premier League 2
Arsenal 3 (Nketiah 3) Leicester City 0
By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park
Having previously scored with regularity at U18 level, Edward Nketiah demonstrated tonight that he is also capable of making a sizeable impact on the U23 stage as the forward scored all three of Arsenal’s goals in their comfortable dispatch of Leicester City.
Nketiah’s second goal was the standout moment of the game as, after a couple of sublime step-overs, the 17-year-old sent a superb driven finish into the back of the net as Arsenal ran out winners.
The young Gunners were deprived of the services of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Matt Macey, Marc Bola, Stephy Mavididi and Krystian Bielik, all of whom are expected to be involved in some capacity when the first-team take on Southampton in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.
That meant that Josh DaSilva, who was a striker just two years ago, started at left-back, while Vlad Dragomir and Nketiah were involved from the outset.
Johnson-Sheaf-Da Graca- DaSilva
Subs: T. Bola (for Sheaf, 46), McGuane (for Johnson). Not used: Keto, Mourgos, Malen.
Arsenal started in the ascendancy, with Chris Willock having a shot closed down by the Leicester defence.
Reiss Nelson then started to weave his magic, with the winger playing a delightful lofted ball into the path of Dragomir, but the Romanian rather snatched at his effort.
Nelson’s next act was to play in Nketiah, but the forward was unable to hit the target on this occasion.
Shortly afterwards, however, Nketiah was celebrating his first goal at this level. Nelson was once again the architect as he slipped a precise pass into Arsenal’s number nine, who finished adroitly.
Arsenal looked to add to their lead straight away and Willock came close to doing just that but his effort was tipped around the post by Leicester goalkeeper Daniel Iversen.
Nketiah then lashed over but following that it was Leicester’s turn to attack, with the Foxes coming close on a couple of occasions prior to half-time.
Arsenal had to make an alteration at the start of the second half, with Tolaji Bola replacing the injured Ben Sheaf, who had fared well in the opening period. That change meant that DaSilva moved across to centre-back, a position he had no previous experience of playing in.
Leicester threatened occasionally but Arsenal were very much still in control, and, after Willock shot wide, it was Nketiah who got on the scoresheet again.
It didn’t take long for Nketiah to complete his hat-trick, with Willock involved once more, and Arsenal’s three points were very much secured.
Arsenal still went for more goals, with Ismael Bennacer having a powerful effort saved, while at the other end Hugo Keto preserved his clean sheet with some fine stops.
The night certainly belonged to Nketiah, who has followed in the footsteps of Mavididi by impressing at U18 level before stepping up to the second-string. Nketiah is more than just a finisher, however, as he is excellent at linking up play and making clever runs in behind the opposing defence.
It wasn’t just Nketiah who impressed tonight. Nelson and Willock were a constant menace for the Leicester defenders to deal with, while Kristopher Da Graca was excellent at centre-back and Josh DaSilva filled in well alongside him in the second half.
The headlines, though, belong to Nketiah, whose ascent continues.