Arsenal 4 (Benjamin, Nwaneri, Ryan, Brown) Garruda Select 1 (Hoki)
Ethan Nwaneri continued to enhance his reputation as he scored a superb goal for Arsenal’s academy in a friendly against Garuda Select at Hale End today.
Arsenal’s squad consisted of a mixture of U18 and U16 players. Some of the more experienced players on show included Henry Jeffcott (who was making his return form injury), Kaleel Green, Josh Robinson, Ismail Oulad M’Hand and Alex Kovacevic.
Mathaeus Roberts, who was on the bench for the U23s last night, captained the side, and there was also a start for defender Maldini Kacurri, who was previously at Fulham.
Schoolboys Luis Brown, Michal Rosiak and Omari Benjamin started, along with Nwaneri.
*You can watch highlights of the game on MOLA.tv
Subs: Nichols (for Robinson), Ferdinand (for Nwaneri), Quamina (for Jeffcott), B. Okonkwo (for Kovacevic), Kamara (for Roberts), Ryan (for Benjamin).
Garuda Select, coached by Dennis Wise, give opportunities to youngsters attempting to make the breakthrough in European football, with many of their players coming from Indonesia.
The visitors started the game brightly, with Kovacevic having to make a save.
Arsenal then gradually started to assert themselves and Nwaneri provided a glimpse of his quality as he played a fine pass into the path of Green, who dragged a shot wide.
Nwaneri, who is an U15 player but often represents the U18s, found Ismail with another excellent ball in but the shot was saved.
Green then shot wide but it was Garuda Select who took the lead courtesy of a well-struck effort from Hoki which got the better of Kovacevic.
Arsenal responded quickly to going behind and they soon managed to pull level. Michal Rosiak found Robinson, whose well-executed cross was met by Benjamin, who found the net.
It was then 2-1 to Arsenal as Nwaneri scored a memorable goal. The midfielder performed a pirouette and then found the far corner of the net. The hype around Nwaneri certainly seems to be justified.
Arsenal presented Garuda with an excellent chance to restore their lead following a woeful pass from Kovacevic, but Hoki was unable to score on this occasion.
Nwaneri got a yellow card as he showed a little bit of petulance, but Arsenal went into the break with a 2-1 lead.
Arsenal made three changes at the start of the second half, with Josh Nichols, Seb Ferdinand and Tino Quamina replacing Josh Robinson, Nwaneri and Jeffcott.
The young Gunners struggled for momentum in the early stages of the second half, with Garuda making life difficult for them.
There were further alterations as the half went on. Brian Okonkwo replaced Kovacevic in goal, while Kamarni Ryan and Kamara came on for Roberts and Benjamin.
Garuda continued to be the stronger side for much of the second period and Okonkwo had to react well to tip the ball over his crossbar.
Eventually Arsenal managed to carve out some chances of their own and they made it 3-1 as Ryan finished adroitly following slick build-up play from Ferdinand.
Ferdinand then shot over himself and Green had an attempt saved.
There was still time for Arsenal to add a fourth goal, with Luis Brown scoring with an emphatic header following a free-kick from Ismail.
Ryan shot wide in the closing stages, with Arsenal having to settle for a 4-1 win.
Overall this was a useful workout for Arsenal against a spirited and talented Garuda team.
As far as Arsenal are concerned, the performance of Nwaneri will certainly be the major talking point. The prospect oozes class and knows how to spot gaps in defences. He does have to improve in some areas but his overall development is very encouraging and he is a superb talent.
Benjamin, a Wales youth international who can play up front or out wide, also gave a good account of himself.
Robinson and Jeffcott defended well, with Kacurri excelling in the second half.
Substitutes Nichols, Ferdinand and Ryan all looked very lively and will hope to be involved at U18 level soon.