The Arsenal u21s came from behind to get their first-ever EFL Trophy knockout win on Wednesday night, inspired by Folarin Balogun again.
The Arsenal u21s had a few players back from injury away to Ipswich, with Omar Rekik, Joel Lopez, and Zak Swanson all returning to the defence, as well as Brooke Norton-Cuffy after his red-card suspension.
Tim Akinola came back into the side in midfield for Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand, but it was otherwise a fairly standard Kevin Betsy team, with Folarin Balogun, Mika Biereth, and Omari Hutchinson leading the attack.
Arsenal came out fairly well at first, with Omari Hutchinson having a shot saved and the commitment to playing out from the back leading to a few inroads.
But Ipswich had the better chances throughout the half, and they deserved their lead when it came in the 31st minute.
The main disappointment will be that the actual goal was a mixture of sloppiness and bad luck.
Charlie Patino took his eye off the ball for a moment and let it get away from him, before Kayden Jackson took a shot that deflected off Mazeed Ogungbo and into the net.
Arsenal did push for an equaliser after that, and Joel Lopez went very close with a good header that came back off the bar.
Unfortunately, Ipswich doubled their lead just before half-time, with Jackson turning in a well-taken volley from the centre of the penalty area, to give them a comfortable advantage at half-time.
Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand came on after the break for Patino, who may still have been carrying his recent injury.
Balogun had only really had one chance in the first half, but he got much more involved in the second.
At first, the striker had a couple of uncharacteristic misses, including one from just a few yards out as he skewed a volley wide from a nice Zak Swanson cutback.
Ipswich then almost scored a third to kill the game, with Ejeheri forced into a fantastic save.
But Arsenal were the next to score in a rather bizarre fashion, as Vincent-Young headed an Oulad M’hand corner into his own net.
A few minutes later, Balogun got his goal. He spun a man in midfield and ran towards the box, before sliding Hutchinson in.
Forced to run wide and away from goal, Hutchinson backheeled the ball into Balogun’s path, and the striker finished from a tight angle.
Arsenal and Ipswich both had late chances, and Ipswich were probably incorrectly denied a goal for a late ‘offside’. Balogun then almost had a winner in injury time, spinning on the ball, but instead, it went to penalties.
Folarin Balogun and Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand stepped up first and second for Arsenal with confident spot-kicks, before Ovie Ejeheri made a save to give Arsenal the chance to take a 3-2 lead.
But Omar Rekik missed his penalty as well, to keep the scores level.
Ipswich’s Joe Pigott hit the post with the next kick, handing Arsenal another opportunity, and Mika Biereth made no mistake, putting his penalty straight down the middle.
Kayden Jackson added to his brace during the 90 by scoring the fifth of the shootout, setting Omari Hutchinson up for a potential match-winning final penalty.
The exciting youngster fired his kick right into the top-left corner and the Arsenal players ran over together in joyous celebration.
Once again, Folarin Balogun made the difference for Kevin Betsy’s side, and Omari Hutchinson’s quality showed in their linkup for the goal.
Arsenal also look much more dangerous whenever Zak Swanson is supporting the attacks, and he should have had an assist – but for Balogun missing a sitter.
That shouldn’t take away from what Balogun is doing at the moment. Every striker misses a few easy chances, but he’s now up to 15 goals and four assists in just 12 games for the academy.
As for Arsenal as a whole, it was a spirited fightback to reach the second knockout round of the EFL Trophy for the first time.
Arsenal u21 lineup vs Ipswich Town
Ejeheri, Swanson, Rekik, Ogungbo, Norton-Cuffy, Patino, Akinola, Lopez, Balogun, Biereth
Alebiosu (for Swanson, 89), Cozier-Duberry, Ideho, S. Oulad M’hand (for Hutchinson, 46), Mitchell, Olayinka, Taylor-Hart
The EFL Trophy Round of 16 draw is on Sky Sports on Saturday, 4th December, after the game between Coventry City and West Brom, so likely at around 2:30pm GMT.
After that, the u23s face Everton away on Monday at 19:00 GMT, the same night the first team are playing Everton away.