The Arsenal academy kicked off the new competitive season with a win over Ipswich Town in the EFL Trophy, with a goal from summer signing George Lewis.
George Lewis joined Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand in making his full debut for the Arsenal u21s against Ipswich Town on Tuesday. The two summer free transfers started on opposite wings, with Lewis on the left.
Ipswich had the best of the early stages, and took the lead through a goal from Jon Nolan. Nolan headed in from close range and Tom Smith couldn’t keep it out despite getting to the ball.
A strong Ipswich team brought a lot of physicality to the fixture, clearly keen to intimidate their youth opponents.
That was evident as one of them clattered the legs out from underneath Salah, but the debutant responded well, hopping back to his feet to try and take a quick free-kick.
George Lewis then scored an equaliser just before half-time. Picking the ball up on the left-hand side of the box, he swept a finish across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
It showed a lot of composure and added to his friendly goal against Spurs last week.
Steve Bould made a change at half-time, bringing on Miguel Azeez for Jordan McEneff. Not long after the break, Arsenal had the lead through Folarin Balogun.
Ben Cottrell deserves a lot of the praise for the goal, with a lovely through ball that Balogun simply had to run onto and finish, which he did clinically. There’s a lot of speculation around Balogun’s future, but he’s still scoring for the youth teams in the meantime.
Salah continued to impress in the second half, particularly by spinning the Ipswich left-back with a nutmeg that almost left his opponent on the floor. But he came off soon after that, with Tim Akinola making the third Arsenal debut of the night.
Akinola immediately brought energy to the team, with a couple of driving runs forward and one inch-perfect through ball to Azeez. He also quickly picked up a harsh yellow card for a sliding challenge with minimal contact.
Balogun came off in the 73rd minute, with suspicions he suffered an injury. Catalin Cirjan replaced him.
The end of the game was one-way traffic, with Ipswich piling the pressure on. After his nervy first-half, Smith made two excellent saves from close range to keep Arsenal ahead, and Tolaji Bola and Mark McGuinness made crucial goalline clearances.
Daniel Oyegoke also made a lot of clearances and headers in the latter stages. Oyegoke, usually a right-back, did a good job playing in a central-defensive role on the night.
Fortunately, the back-line stood firm for the win, putting Arsenal top of their EFL Trophy group.
Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Smith; Alebiosu, Oyegoke, McGuinness (C), Bola; McEneff, Olayinka, Cottrell; M’Hand (65), Balogun (73), Lewis.
Subs: Hillson, Akinola (65), Azeez (45), Cirjan (73), Kirk, Ogungbo.
Arsenal’s next EFL Trophy fixture is against Crawley Town on October 13th. Before that, they have the return of the Premier League 2, starting with a game against Southampton u23s on Friday, September 11th at 15:00. So it’s a quick turnaround.