Omari Hutchinson underlined his impressive talent once again as the Arsenal u23s bounced back from defeat to beat Crystal Palace 4-2 on Friday.
Kevin Betsy’s competitive Arsenal u23 spell had started in the worst possible way, away to West Ham, as his young side lost 6-1.
There were some mitigating factors, particularly that the Hammers had three very senior players on the pitch (Yarmolenko, Lanzini, and Masuaku). But there were also some odd selection choices and a lot of very poor defending on the day.
One of the stranger decisions was the call not to start Kido Taylor-Hart, and that was rectified as he made the lineup against Crystal Palace. It’s not just that the winger is a talented young player, it also gives the team greater attacking balance to have two wide players.
One of the few positives against West Ham was Omari Hutchinson, and it was he who made the biggest impact in the early stages of the game.
With six minutes gone, Hutchinson received the ball from Omar Rekik just outside the centre circle in his own half, facing his own goal. He drew in a couple of Palace players before spinning away from both, shrugging off a clear shirt pull to break into space.
Another Palace player considered a shirt pull, but by this point Hutchinson was on the edge of the box. He cut behind a defender and while the defender tried to turn and keep his balance, Hutchinson fired a shot into the net. It was an excellent solo goal.
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) August 20, 2021
Less than 10 minutes later, it was 2-0. Miguel Azeez made an interception in midfield and played the ball forward to Taylor-Hart, who took a touch so impressive that I’m not sure whether it was deliberate.
Taylor-Hart played in summer signing Mika Biereth, who squared for Hutchinson to score again, this time with his right foot.
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) August 20, 2021
Unfortunately, the two-goal advantage didn’t last long. Palace pulled one back in the 18th minute, albeit with a fair chunk of luck with the final finish.
Though it was a fairly even game for the next 20 minutes, it was Arsenal who added to their advantage before half-time. Taylor-Hart raced away down the left and shrugged off a Palace defender with a slight suspicion of a foul.
When nothing was given, the winger crossed the ball into the six-yard box in the perfect place for Biereth to finish first time.
clip of the third goal, very good cross by taylor hart, him and omari are bossing this game pic.twitter.com/utMkT6azXw
— oml 🇵🇸🇵🇸 (@wary4a) August 20, 2021
Just when it looked like the half’s drama was over, Palace’s Scott Banks picked up a second yellow card for cynically preventing a counter-attack. His side went in at the break 3-1 behind and down to 10 men.
As is often the case, the red card actually led to a much tighter and cagier game in the second half. Arsenal had also taken Hutchinson off at half time, with the youngster on a yellow card.
The Gunners mostly remained on top, with Taylor-Hart hitting the woodwork, but Palace had their chances too, and with seven minutes to go they made things interesting with an excellent goal into the top corner from the edge of the box.
With the end of the 90 approaching, Joel Ideho won a penalty for Arsenal with a nice run, but Miguel Azeez saw his spot-kick saved to keep things tense. Fortunately, Zak Swanson finished the contest off with a late goal in injury time to make it 4-2.
Ideho picked the ball up on the counter and played a long through ball to Swanson, and it would have been a close contest between the Arsenal wing-back and the last Palace man back. But the defender pulled up and left Swanson free on goal to pass into the net.
Omari Hutchinson was absolutely the star of the first half, scoring the kind of goals we’ve become so accustomed to seeing from him in the younger age groups.
Arsenal were much better as an attacking force in general, though. Mika Biereth showed why the club brought him in with a goal, an assist, and a clearance off the line, and Kido Taylor-Hart was also heavily involved in the three first-half goals.
Behind them, Miguel Azeez and Charlie Patino really grew into the game as it went on, and they both put in excellent performances as well.
The main issue for the u23s remains the defence, but this was at least an improvement on the West Ham clash.
Arsenal u23 lineup vs Crystal Palace
Graczyk (GK); Ogungbo, Rekik, Kirk; Swanson, Patino, Azeez, Norton-Cuffy; Taylor-Hart, Biereth, Hutchinson
Ideho (for Hutchinson, 46), Monlouis (for Norton-Cuffy, 46), Butler-Oyedeji (for Taylor-Hart, 84), Cottrell, Ejeheri
The Arsenal u23s face Tottenham Hotspur u23s in a Premier League 2 North London derby on Friday, August 27th, away from home.