Arsenal U23 1-1 Brighton U23: Sublime late Reiss Nelson strike fails to clinch victory for Freddie Ljungberg’s young guns
PUBLISHED: 21:10 20 August 2018 | UPDATED: 21:17 20 August 2018
The Arsenal U23, now led by Freddie Ljungberg, took on Brighton U23 at the Emirates. Read on for Layth Yousif’s on-the-whistle match report.
Two late goals shared between the sides saw Arsenal U23s draw 1-1 with Brighton U23s at the Emirates in the club’s first home match of the new season on Monday evening.
An excellent strike from Reiss Nelson appeared to have won the match for the home side as the talented 18-year-old curled home a right-footed shot which evaded Jason Steele to end in the top left of the goal.
However Seagulls substitute Aaron Connelly’s low, right-footed drive moments later levelled the score for the battling visitors.
While it was good to see Freddie Ljungberg’s take charge of his second game as U23 coach, after the improbable 6-5 defeat to Manchester City on the opening day of the season, his side were unable to clinch three points against an obdurate Brighton side.
Despite 11 goals during the U23s first match, the hardy Gunners fans assembled in the ground on Monday saw only two this time round, as the talented Emile Smith Rowe failed to add to his brace against City.
Krystian Bielik, Xavier Amaechi and Stephy Mavididi were the other scorers in their first match which wasn’t enough to prevent the side falling to defeat after City’s Nabil Touaizi Zoubdi netted an 87th minute to grab the win and his hat-trick.
Ljungberg’s young guns did gain a point against Brighton but are still seeking their first victory of the season.
Despite Bielik and Mavididi moving on, with the latter in a surprise move to Italian champions Juventus since, the Arsenal Invincible opted for a strong side against the visitors from the south coast, as the home side lined up in a 4-3-3 formation.
Smith-Rowe again started in the middle, alongside Joe Willock with Charlie Gilmour the more defensive option while Eddie Nketiah led a front three with Ameachi on the right and Reiss Nelson on the left of an attacking trident.
In a lively start full of pace and excellent off-the-ball running Nelson broke through on 18 minutes after good movement and touch from Smith-Rowe.
How refreshing it was to see the Arsenal legend Ljungberg immediately – and heartily – his side for their efforts.
In an open first 45 minutes with plenty of attacking intent if not penetration, Deyan Iliev, the Gunners Macedonian-born 23-year-old showed excellent anticipation, reflexes and footwork to palm away a stinging first-half free-kick from Brighton’s No11, Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
The Macedonia U21 netminder still time on his side as keepers generally mature later, but you do feel he needs an excellent season to make the step-up from academy football. It was pleasing that he made a good start.
Brighton who started their season with a 0-0 draw against Liverpool in the Premier League 2, fielded Steele in goal ahead of former Gunners keeper Hugo Keto, having taken 40 points from 22 outings, managing to gain promotion to the top level of Premier League 2 through the play-offs.
Midway through the second half Jahanbakhsh played the ball into the box for Beram Kayal but the Seagulls No7 missed, when well-placed after his left-footed shot went wide following the ball directed into his path when Iliev pushed the low cross away.
It was a brave action from the Arsenal keeper but one, which, perhaps the keeper would reflect on later as not being necessary, surrounded as he was by his defenders.
With seconds remaining Nelson – who looks a giant at this level and has surely outgrown Premier League 2 – fired home in front of 1,180 supporters.
However, as the clock ticked down, Brighton pushed forward one last time and were rewarded by Connolly’s late strike.
In truth it was the least a combative Brighton deserved against a gilded Arsenal side, which while high on talent and technique simply couldn’t break down their rivals.