Folarin Balogun shone with a first-half hat-trick as an Arsenal XI defeated Barnet in a pre-season fixture on Wednesday night.
The big news pre-match was that Xavier Amaechi wouldn’t be involved in the clash. There are reports that he might be on the way to a German club, and it wouldn’t be surprising after he was left out of the first-team pre-season tour for younger wingers like Bukayo Saka.
Ryan Alebiosu took his place in the starting lineup, and Arsenal got off to a bright start with a couple of early chances. Folarin Balogun had the ball in the net within minutes, but his cheeky chip was ruled out for offside.
It was Balogun who ended up giving Arsenal the lead from the penalty spot, after Trae Coyle was tripped in the box. The striker had doubled that advantage within minutes, sprinting in behind before cutting inside a defender and finishing confidently.
Within 17 minutes, it was a hat-trick, and the third goal was the best of the lot. Balogun picked up the ball on the edge of the area and made some space for a shot on his weaker left foot before firing past the keeper.
The 3-0 half-time scoreline was harsh on Barnet, who had chances of their own in the first half. Centre-back pairing Joseph Olowu and Harry Clarke had to make some good tackles and clearing headers, as the Arsenal full-backs struggled a bit.
After the break, Tom Smith came on in goal, whilst Alfie Matthews and Mazeed Ogungbo replaced Alebiosu and Tolaji Bola, who was just returning from injury.
Barnet got a soft penalty at the start of the second half, converted confidently to make it 3-1 and put some nerves into the Arsenal team.
Barnet then hit the bar, missed a near open goal and scored an offside chance as they pushed for a second. They eventually got their goal after a corner though, putting Arsenal under real pressure.
Arsenal eventually withstood the momentum shift to get a foothold in the game. Miguel Azeez hit the post after coming off the bench, but Barnet still had most of the possession until the final whistle.
Fortunately, the three goals from Balogun turned out to be enough to secure the win.
Arsenal lineup (4-3-3): James Hillson; Zak Swanson, Joseph Olowu, Harrison Clarke, Tolaji Bola; Matthew Smith, Jordan McEneff, Ben Cottrell; Ryan Alebiosu, Folarin Balogun, Trae Coyle.