The Arsenal u21s finished off their pre-season campaign with a win over St. Albans City on Monday, with Joel Ideho scoring a stunner.
With the Arsenal u21s kicking off their Premier League 2 campaign against Manchester United on Saturday, they had time for one last pre-season fixture against St. Albans City on Monday.
U21 boss Mehmet Ali used the match as an opportunity to give some minutes to some of the lesser-utilised members of his squad, with James Hillson getting a rare appearance in goal and Michal Rosiak making his debut.
In a relatively quiet opening, St. Albans fans believed their team had taken the lead following a set-piece, but the assistant had his flag up for offside.
Arsenal centre-back Taylor Foran then had to make a block in the six-yard box to keep the scores level, and a header from the ensuing corner hit the side-netting as St. Albans had all the good early chances.
St. Albans had their clearest opportunity yet as their striker ran through on goal, one on one, but Hillson managed to make the save.
But Arsenal slowly managed to grow into the half, with Mauro Bandeira and Cirjan finally testing the opposition goalkeeper with a couple of long shots.
Cirjan then had Arsenal’s best chance of the half, following excellent work from George Lewis. Lewis beat his man out wide and raced into the box before cutting a cross back.
Lewis found Cirjan in an excellent position, but the midfielder was off balance and lifted his shot over the bar.
Other than that, Arsenal went closest to a goal by trying to get Taylor-Hart in behind, but they never quite managed to find him with the required accuracy.
Hillson had a good first half, but the second period gave Tom Smith an opportunity to impress in his place. James Sweet also entered the fray, replacing Tim Akinola, with Sweet moving to right-back and debutant Rosiak shifting into Akinola’s position in midfield.
Joel Ideho had a hit-and-miss first half, but he started the second looking much more dangerous, and won a free-kick in a good position. Cirjan crashed the direct set-piece against the bar.
Ideho then found himself with the ball in midfield on a counter-attack, with Lewis racing into space on his right.
The goalkeeper had started to step up in anticipation of the pass to Lewis, but Ideho spotted that movement and lifted an audacious effort at goal from at least 45 yards out. It was an inch-perfect shot that dropped into the net for 1-0.
I definitely underplayed Joel Ideho’s goal when I said it was from “40 yards”. It’s closer to 50. pic.twitter.com/32K1Wcnn6Z
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) August 2, 2022
It’s not the first long-distance lob Ideho has scored, as he first found himself on the radar of the big clubs after he scored a similar goal for Ajax in the UEFA Youth League, and he did the same in a youth game last season. But this one was even more impressive.
Arsenal initially dominated after the opening goal, pushing for a second, but St. Albans rallied late on and forced a couple of excellent saves out of Smith.
Fortunately, it was too late for a comeback, and Arsenal finished the match 1-0 winners.
Arsenal u21 lineup vs St. Albans City
Hillson, Rosiak, Foran, Ibrahim, Jeffcott, Akinola, Bandeira, Cottrell, Lewis, Taylor-Hart, Ideho
Cirjan (for Cottrell, 22), Smith (for Hillson, 46), Sweet (for Akinola, 46), Quamina (for Ibrahim, 71), Butler-Oyedeji, Cozier-Duberry, Monlouis