Charlie Patino scored on his home u23 debut and Reiss Nelson starred as the Arsenal u23s drew 2-2 with Chelsea on Friday night.

Charlie Patino with the Arsenal u23s at Meadow Park (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
Charlie Patino with the Arsenal u23s at Meadow Park (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

For the most part, Arsenal named a pretty standard u23 lineup against Chelsea on Friday, but with a few changes.

Firstly, Reiss Nelson dropped down from the senior side to start the match, as he searches for minutes. Meanwhile, Charlie Patino started in midfield for his u23 home debut in Miguel Azeez’s absence through injury.

Alex Kirk, who recently signed professional terms with the club, was also in the team in defence, with Omar Rekik not quite ready after his January transfer.

Unfortunately, Chelsea started the match much the better of the two sides. They had plenty of early chances to open the scoring, and ended up doing so through Tierno Ballo in the 11th minute.

Their dominance continued throughout the first half an hour, yet Arsenal managed to pull level anyway. Nelson was looking bright despite the team’s performance, and he won and then scored a fantastic free-kick to make it 1-1.

The 21-year-old was truly a rare bright spark in that opening 45 minutes, taking players on and driving forwards. But Chelsea quickly retook the lead through Marcel Lewis before the break.

In fairness to Arsenal, they put in a much-improved performance in the second half. Nelson continued to play well, but Ben Cottrell’s influence started to grow, and Patino got himself a foothold in the game as well.

It was Patino who pulled his team level, nine minutes from time. He geared up a shot from outside the box, and it took a fairly substantial deflection to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. The keeper still got a hand to it, but couldn’t stop the ball going in off the post.

Arsenal brought on Kido Taylor-Hart for the rest of the match, and both he and Folarin Balogun – who largely struggled to have an impact – had late chances to win the game.

Taylor-Hart curled a shot narrowly high and wide after a good counter-attack before Balogun spun his defender to get in on goal but the referee pulled it back for a very soft free-kick. The two teams had to settle for a draw in the end.

Arsenal lineup: Hein, Alebiosu, Kirk, Dinzeyi, Lopez, Akinola, Patino, Cottrell, Nelson, Moller, Balogun

Subs: Cirjan, Ogungbo, Oyegoke, Smith, Taylor-Hart (for Akinola)