By Rob Kelly at Underhill
Arsenal Under-21s slipped to a north London derby defeat to Tottenham at Underhill on Monday night.
Despite going close through Chuba Akpom early on, Tottenham proved the more dangerous in the first half and scored the only goal of the game 12 seconds after the restart through Nabil Bentaleb.
Akpom hit the bar with a looping header as Steve Gatting’s side sought to get themselves back into the game, then the striker saw a late chance saved by Jonathan Miles.
But they could find no way through despite an encouraging closing half-hour and ended an entertaining evening empty-handed.
Gatting made three changes to the side that beat Wolves last week, with Carl Jenkinson and Francis Coquelin both included. The first-team duo replaced Jordan Wynter and Zak Ansah, while Isaac Hayden come in for the suspended Danny Boateng.
Tottenham, meanwhile, included Tom Carroll up front, the 20-year-old having made 14 appearances for the first team this season, including one as a substitute in November’s 5-2 defeat to Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.
The game got off to a typically-frenetic start, with full-blooded tackles flying in from the very first whistle but it was Arsenal who seemed to settle first. With just six minutes on the clock, Chuba Akpom touched the ball away from Grant Hall and unleashed a fierce shot at goal, which just whistled past the far post.
Tottenham responded well, though, and Carroll was presented with a golden opportunity to put the visitors ahead but snatched at a close-range shot and screwed it wide.
It soon descended into a real midfield battle, with Arsenal’s chief danger coming from Serge Gnabry and the visitors’ stemming from his opposite number, Cristian Ceballos. Indeed, the Spaniard twice came close midway through the half, the first from close range and the second with a fierce drive that whistled just over the bar.
The Gunners struggled to fashion any real clear-cut chances in this period, but right at the end of the half Tottenham should have taken the lead when they found themselves in a three-on-two situation. But with just Martinez to beat, Shaquile Coulthirst fired a shot straight at the keeper from eight yards out.
It had been a tight first half in which Tottenham had created the better opportunities, but they only had to wait 12 seconds after the restart to open the scoring as Bentaleb poked home from close range.
Sead Hajrovic had been imperious at the heart of the Arsenal defence, and Nico Yennaris the heartbeat of the side, but the Gunners were struggling to break down the visitors. Just before the hour mark, Tottenham threatened to double their advantage but Ceballos fired straight at Martinez from close range when it seemed easier to score.
The introduction of Sanchez Watt just after the hour mark seemed to give Arsenal fresh impetus and they soon came close to restoring parity as Akpom hit the bar with a looping header. Gnabry then headed the rebound over the bar from close range.
Tottenham remained a threat and Martinez had to be alert to keep out Ceballos and then Coulthirst, before the latter then hit the post after taking advantage of a slip by Yennaris.
Arsenal upped the tempo in the closing stages as they tried to find an equaliser and Akpom had a golden chance when he latched on to Kris Olsson’s quickly-taken free kick. The striker was in space in the area, but his low shot was smothered well by the onrushing Jonathan Miles.
That proved to be their last chance as they slipped to a disappointing home defeat.
- Zelalem 63
- Watt 63
Tottenham Hotspur U21
- Gallifuoco 80
- Fredericks Yellow Card
- Bentaleb 67 Goal!
- Nicholson 67
- Dombaxe 80