U21 Premier League- Elite Group
West Brom 2 Arsenal 2 (Neita, Akpom)
Arsenal U21s showed terrific resilience as they came from behind to draw 2-2 with their West Bromwich Albion counterparts at the Hawthorns this afternoon.
Arsenal found themselves two goals down early in the second half, but pulled a goal back through Nigel Neita before Lukasz Fabianski made an impressive penalty save from Romayne Sawyers to keep Arsenal in with a chance. They levelled when the recently prolific Chuba Akpom headed home and could have snatched a late winner had it not been for impressive West Brom defending.
Coach Steve Gatting made several changes from the side that lost to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, with Daniel Boateng, Elton Monteiro, Nico Yennaris, Jordan Wynter and Neita all coming in. Serge Gnabry, Kristoffer Olsson, Sead Hajrovic and Hector Bellerin were left on the bench with Wednesday’s NextGen Series tie with Inter Milan in mind. West Brom, meanwhile, named an experienced goalkeeper in Boaz Myhill, whilst also calling upon England youth international Isiah Brown, who was on the bench for their first-team against Chelsea in the Premier League yesterday.
subs: Shea, Bellerin (for Yennaris), Hajrovic, Olsson (for Akpom), Gnabry (for Ansah).
Arsenal, seeking their first victory against West Brom at this level this season on their fourth attempt, sought an early goal, with Zak Ansah shooting wide. Adil Nabi then looked to respond for the hosts, but Fabianski, making his third consecutive appearance following his return from injury, did well to race off his line and eradicate the danger.
Fabianski then gathered a tame free-kick from the same opponent, before Arsenal created the first clear-cut opening when Yennaris found Ansah, who tested Myhill with a fierce shot which the Welsh goalkeeper did well to hold.
Akpom, in a rich vein of goalscoring form at present, then demonstrated his endeavour by chasing down the ball, winning it and shooting just over, then Nigel Neita found Conor Henderson, who confirmed this week that this will be his final season at the club. The Irish midfielder shot wide, before there was a rather worrying moment at the other end when Ignasi Miquel and Wynter clashed into eachother, but Fabianski was alert to the danger, before Ansah shot wide following a counter-attack instigated by Henderson.
West Brom would take the lead before the interval, however, with Kemar Roofe taking a touch to steady himself before firing past the stranded Fabianski. Neita and Akpom sought to fashion an immediate response but couldn’t get a clean shot away between them, before Yennaris won a corner with a deflected effort, but the dangerous Nabi shot wide from a free-kick in the final act of the half as West Brom went into the break in front.
The hosts started the brightest after the restart, with James Hurst forcing Fabianski to palm away his well-struck effort, before Nabi finally got his reward for an impressive performance by eluding Monteiro and beating Fabianski calmly. Arsenal responded thereafter, with Henderson sending a free-kick wide and Nigel Neita reducing the deficit with a good finish following impressive link-up play from Wynter and Akpom.
A dramatic few minutes then ensued, with Monteiro clumsily bringing down Roofe in the area. Sawyers took the penalty, but Fabianski gussed the right way and made an impressive save. Having gained a lifeline, Arsenal immediately made the most of it, with Martin Angha powering down the left flank and crossing for Akpom to head home to equalise.
Arsenal, now well in the ascendancy in terms of possession and chances created, introduced Gnabry and Olsson for Ansah and Akpom. Meanwhile, Angha was proving a real threat down the left flank, with his low centre just eluding Neita, with Henderson shooting straight at Myhill shortly afterwards.
Bellerin was thrown on in place of Yennaris and very nearly made the most impressive of introductions, rattling a post from outside the box, but West Brom held on to secure a point. For Arsenal, it could have been more.