Arsenal U23 4-0 Everton U23: Eddie Nketiah hat-trick and Reiss Nelson outclass Toffees to move within a point of Premier League 2 top spot
PUBLISHED: 22:29 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 22:40 05 February 2018
Arsenal U23s put Everton U23s to the sword 4-0 at Meadow Park on Monday evening through an Eddie Nketiah hat-trick and Reiss Nelson goal to move within a point of leaders Liverpool.
The Toffees must be sick of the sight of Arsenal after a second rout at the hands of the Gunners in three days following Aaron Rammsey’s trio against Sam Allardyce’s sorry side at the Emirates at the weekend, but near the M25 and the North London and Hertfordshire border the young guns followed the example in Premier League 2.
The U23s started the match as the form team in the league with 15 goals from their previous four matches and ended it by extending their unbeaten run to six games.
With seven matches remaining prior to kick-off, the young guns trailed table toppers Liverpool by four points – but a pleasing victory over the Reds’ Merseyside rivals increased the pressure on the leaders.
The junior gunners started brightly as the attacking talents of England U17 World Cup winner Emile Smith-Rowe probed the Toffees backline.
With talented youngsters such as Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah running at the Mereysiders defence it was only a matter of time until the first goal.
Steve Gattin’g s talented teenagers went 1-0 ahead on 12 minutes through Nketiah.
The highly-rated 18-year-old initially had a shot blocked in a crowded box but Xavier Amaechi played it into the path of Joe Willock, whose shot came off Nketiah past Toffees goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt and into the net.
Nketiah, already with first team experience – and two goals on his debut against Norwich City at the Emirates in the Carabao Cup third round in October – is the type of forward who is only happy when scoring goals.
Apart from goals the striker offers instinctive movement between the lines to draw defenders out of position. Another who can find valuable space is Joe who drove forward at the heart of the visiting defence before playing a perceptive through ball to Nelson who beat the offside trap.
The Elephant and Castle-born 18-year-old showed quick feet to dance around Everton keeper Mateusz Hewelt before slotting home to double the lead.
It was wonderful to see such vision from Willock and such clinical finishing with no little flair from Nelson.
The Toffees U23s, led by David Unsworth put the junior gunners under aerial pressure but Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos, who looked to be forming an effective partnership in the Gunners backline of three with Tolaji Bola held firm, even against the physicality of Bassala Sambou, who had notched three goals in his previous 180 minutes.
Arsenal Wenger’s number two Steve Bould was spotted running the rule over the youngsters but as temperatures dropped on a freezing evening north of London on-pitch matters warmed up in the second half after a series of niggly challenges between the sides saw the referee give a talking to various youngsters.
What was good to see was the espirit de corps when the Gunners pals were under attack. The fact none took a backward step while supporting their colleagues was heartening.
What was also enjoyable was the fact talents such as Smith-Rowe perfectly executed a thunderous sliding challenge - which indicated he has steel to go with his silky skills.
There were more silky skills to marvel at as Willock added a second assist after playing the ball to Nketiah.
The youngster showed his instinctive finishing by calmly slotting the ball home low across Toffees keeper Mateusz Hewelt to make it 3-0 on the hour.
Tyreece John-Jules came on for Xavier Amaechi with both stepping up to the U23s after featuring in the U18s during their FA Youth Cup fifth round victory over Middlesbrough at an equally freezing Bishop Auckland on Friday evening.
However the night most certainly belonged to Nketiah as he grabbed a deserved hat-trick to make it 4-0 after another clinical finish.
In doing so he became the second Gunner to notch a treble against Everton in three days after Aaron Ramsey’s enjoyable efforts on Saturday during the first team’s dismantling of the Merseysiders.
And as Smith-Rowe was replaced by Charlie Gilmour to a well-earned ovation from a small but noisy crowd you were left with the feeling the club’s future looks bright – providing these gilded youths continue their progress.