West Ham U23 2-3 Arsenal U23: A brace from Eddie Nketiah seals win for Freddie Ljungberg’s young guns
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Freddie Ljungberg’s Arsenal U23 side travelled to East London to take on West Ham U23s at the former Olympic Stadium. Read on for Layth Yousif’s match report.
Arsenal U23s won an open match against West Ham U23s 3-2 in the pouring East London rain in Premier League 2, Division 1 on Friday evening to notch their first victory of the season.
A clinical brace from Eddie Nketiah and a header from captain Julio Pleguezuelo saw off West Ham who scored goals through the prolific Xande Silva and skipper Reece Oxford
Freddie Ljungberg made two changes for Arsenal, in defence as Joseph Oluwu came in for Jordi Osie-Tutu while Tolaji Bola replaced Cohen Bramall who limped off in the 1-1 draw against Brighton on Monday.
The Invincible opted for another powerful forward line including the impressive Reiss Nelson.
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The home side made one change from their 3-1 victory over Spurs U23s at Stevenage two weeks ago, with left back Joe Powell in for Tunji Akinola.
After a shapeless opening 15 minutes Eddie Nketiah unleashed a powerful shot at Irons keeper Nathan Trott’s near post after good work from Reiss Nelson, but the young Irons keeper was equal to the task to palm the ball away for a corner that came to nothing.
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The lively Nketiah put Arsenal 1-0 up on 26 minutes after he fired past Trott with an emphatic right footed shot low into far corner after the young guns captain Julio Pleguezuelo’s free kick deep into the final third.
Leader Pleguezuelo made it onto the scoresheet seven minutes later after his looping header in a crowded box found the net, following a corner from Xavier Amaechi as the visitors doubled the lead.
Irons hotshot striker Xander Silva scored to pull one back moments after half-time with a header from a Joe Powell cross as the heavens opened.
It was the Porto-born 21-year-old’s fifth of the season already, four of which this correspondent has witnessed in the flesh.
The Portuguese U20 international signed from Vitoria Guimaeres this summer looks a predator ready to join the first team squad.
However, just as the home side threatened a recovery Nketiah grabbed his second of the evening with a neat swivel and finish from close range to put the Gunners 3-1 ahead on 52 minutes.
Home skipper Reece Oxford scored the Irons second of the evening with a header on the hour following a Nathan Holland corner as the rain sheeted down in East London.
Arsenal fans of course will remember Oxford from his sensationally mature performance on the opening day of the 2015-16 season when then-manager, Slaven Bilic inspired a 2-0 win at the Emirates.
The Edmonton-born centre-back who can also play in midfield hasn’t kicked on as much as those who saw him that day in North London would have expected but it must be emphasised the England U20 defender, who also had a spell with Borussia Moenchengladbach, is still only 19.
West Ham had two great chances to at least level as the clock ticked down but Silva’s goalbound shot was blocked four yards from goal before sub Oladapo Afolayan smashed against the bar moments after.
However, Ljungberg’s young guns saw off the threat to clinch a hard-fought victory.