REPORT – NWANERI SCORES LATE EQUALISER AS ARSENAL U21S DRAW WITH TOTTENHAM IN THRILLING ENCOUNTER

Another week and another hugely entertaining game for Arsenal U21s, with Ethan Nwaneri this time salvaging a point with a late equaliser against Tottenham Hotspur in a frantic North London derby at Meadow Park.

Tottenham have enjoyed an excellent season – they are top of Premier League 2 and seem very likely to be crowned champions. They showed exactly why with an impressive display but Arsenal deserve credit for matching them and putting in a spirited performance of their own, especially in the second half.

Nwaneri had been rather quiet by his usual lofty standards but it is a sign of a top quality player when you can impact games when you are not quite at your best. Plenty of players stood out in red and white, with the likes of Amario Cozier-Duberry, James Sweet and Myles Lewis-Skelly all performing well, the latter producing an excellent display in the deep-lying midfield position.

Arsenal welcomed back Reuell Walters from injury, while Ovie Ejeheri and Jack Henry-Francis also returned to the side. Jimi Gower started on the left flank in place of Ismail Oulad M’Hand.

Former Arsenal youngster Will Lankshear started up front for Tottenham, with another ex-Gunner on the bench in Will Andiyapan.

There was a great sense of anticipation ahead of this game, with a significantly larger crowd in attendance than usual. North London Forever was played prior to kick off, which doesn’t normally happen at youth level.

The game kicked off in frantic fashion and was more akin to an FA Cup tie than a typical youth game. Sweet, who captained the side and was again deployed at left-back, made a good challenge early on and the first chance of the game fell to Tottenham, with Jamie Donley shooting over.

There was an anxious moment when Ejeheri initially struggled to hold a Tottenham free-kick but he eventually managed to claim the ball.

Tottenham continued to threaten and struck the crossbar with one effort, with Arsenal just about managing to stay level.

Eventually Arsenal started to assert themselves on proceedings and carved out chances of their own. Cozier-Duberry found the net but the flag was already up for offside and the winger then found Gower, whose shot was saved.

Sweet scored while cutting in from the left against Chelsea and he looked to do likewise but his effort was kept out on this occasion.

It seemed as if an intense first half was going to end goalless but Tottenham managed to break the deadlock in the 37th minute as Jude Soonsup-Bell guided the ball into the back of the net following a corner.

Gower shot over in the early stages of the second half. Nwaneri was then booked for a challenge on Soonsup-Bell, who had to go off injured.

Sweet had a penalty claim turned down but it was a rather incoherent start to the second half as both teams struggled to keep possession.

There was a frustrating moment for Arsenal as Cozier-Duberry sent in a dangerous cross which just eluded Butler-Oyedeji.

Sweet and Butler-Oyedeji had chances and then Sweet rattled the crossbar. The tension was almost unbearable as Cozier-Duberry then thought his effort had crossed the line but play was waved on.

Arsenal then made their first and only change of the game as Ismeal Kabia came on for Lewis-Skelly, who was very impressive. It proved to be an inspired switch as just a few minutes after his introduction Kabia sent in an excellent cross that was met by a fantastic flick from Nwaneri.

It was a moment of genius but there was still time for further action. Ejeheri had to make a save and then at the other end Nwaneri and Gower were both thwarted in quick succession by Tottenham goalkeeper Luca Gunter, who produced an inspired display.

There was one last opportunity as Henry-Francis found the roof of the net but in the end both sides had to settle for a point following an intense battle.

Arsenal move down to fourth place in Premier League 2 but they showed that they can compete with the league leaders in an individual game. Lewis-Skelly is certainly growing into the deep-lying midfield position, while Sweet is continuing to impress at left-back and Cozier-Duberry remains a major threat.

In the second half the young Gunners seemed determined to prevent Tottenham from leaving with all three points and they succeeded in completing that objective.

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