Danny Welbeck played his first game in ten months as he stepped up his recovery from the long-term knee issues he’s been suffering with since early May, featuring for 60 minutes against Brighton’s u21 side earlier this afternoon.
However, eyes were firmly fixed upon Reiss Nelson, who scored one and created two assists in an impressive all-round performance as the talented youngsters cruised to a 4-1 victory at London Colney.
Nelson broke the deadlock just two minutes after kick-off, taking advantage of a defensive error to fire home from close-range past goalkeeper Christian Walton. His first goal with the u21s ultimately turned out to be a catalyst as the young Gunners ran riot.
Chris Willock and Nelson were a handful to deal with on opposite flanks, as the former won a set-piece after being fouled whilst Nelson saw his powerful effort fire over the crossbar. Soon enough, we had the ball in the back of the net once more.
Krystian Bielik doubled the scoring after capitalising on some lacklustre marking in the area, heading home from Nelson’s corner-kick. Then, Stephy Mavididi completed a quick-fire double to make it 3-0 shortly afterwards.
Unsurprisingly, Nelson was at the forefront of the attack and played an inviting through ball towards the 17-year-old’s feet. The forward, who scored a well-taken brace in the previous fixture against Stoke last week, made no mistake with his opportunity to slot home.
Brighton had a golden chance to get themselves back in the match midway through the first-half, but Matt Macey made a good stop to deny Jack Harper’s penalty after Kristopher Da Graca was penalised for a cynical push on Jonah Ayunga.
In the second-half, the intensity was understandably slower given the scoreline, and allowed us to keep hold of possession for prolonged periods before finding pockets of space to exploit within the visitors’ backline.
Walton had no chance stopping a superb free-kick on the edge of the area, which was curled goalwards by Ismael Bennacer – for his first League goal of the campaign.
The visitors found solace with a late penalty, after Marcus McGuane fouled Dylan Barnett in the box. Substitute goalkeeper Ryan Huddart was unable to replicate Macey’s first-half heroics, and James Tilley scored from the spot.
Nelson will gladly take the plaudits after another superb performance, especially as he was a constant threat and tough for Brighton’s defenders to get near. After turning 16 in December he’ll be relishing the opportunity to feature more often and play more minutes with the u21s, having already utilised the group stages of this season’s UEFA Youth League as a platform to cement his credentials upon.