Coventry City 0 Arsenal U21s 3 (Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Willock)
Arsenal’s youngsters commenced their Checkatrade Trophy campaign in impressive fashion with a 3-0 victory away to Coventry City tonight as Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock all got on the scoresheet.
Making their first appearance in the competition, Arsenal fielded a team similar to the one that they normally name at U23 level and Freddie Ljungberg’s side will undoubtedly have benefitted from facing a Coventry team comprised of senior players.
There were some familiar names in the Coventry team, including captain Abu Ogogo, a former Arsenal youth player who made the bench for the first-team a decade ago. Goalkeeper Liam O’Brien was previously on trial with the Gunners and substitute shot-stopper Correy Addai is a Hale End graduate.
Regarding the Arsenal side, Deyan Iliev, Zech Medley and Robbie Burton replaced Emiliano Martinez, Danny Ballard and the injured Xavier Amaechi. On the bench, Gedion Zelalem was finally back in the squad after recovering from his injury nightmare.
Iliev was called into action in the Arsenal goal early on but it wasn’t long until the young Gunners took the lead, with Smith Rowe opening the scoring in just the fourth minute as he finished well.
Reise Allassani, previously of Crystal Palace, was causing problems for the Arsenal defence, but Arsenal still posed a threat at the other end, with Willock seeing his free-kick saved by O’Brien.
Arsenal had to withstand some pressure as the first-half drew to a close, but they could have doubled their lead just before the break only for Smith Rowe’s effort to be kept out by O’Brien.
Ljungberg made a substitution at the start of the second half, with Tobi Omole replacing Olowu.
Jordi Hiwula and Allassani remained lively for Coventry, but Arsenal then sent on Nketiah in place of Burton and the striker, unsurprisingly, proceeded to make an instant impact.
Firstly Nketiah did well to create an opportunity for Tyreece John-Jules, who sent his effort wide.
Then Nketiah went for goal himself and managed to find the net.
There was still time for a third goal, with Willock’s effort getting the better of O’Brien and Arsenal continued the impressive momentum that they have been building under Ljungberg.
Arsenal: Iliev; Olowu (Omole 46), Medley, Pleguezuelo (Saka 87), Bola; Gilmour, Willock; Olayinka, Burton (Nketiah 72), Smith Rowe; John-Jules. Subs not used: Okonkwo, Coyle, Thompson, Zelalem.