By Rob Kelly at Finch Farm
Jack Wilshere played a key role in both Arsenal goals as the under-21s claimed a hard-fought victory at Everton on Monday afternoon.
The hosts took an early lead through Apostolos Vellios, but the Gunners responded impressively and were back on level terms soon afterwards.
Wilshere was at the heart of it as he played in Jernade Meade, who rolled the ball back for the excellent Thomas Eisfeld to fire in at the near post.
The England international, a lively presence throughout his second 90-minute run-out in the past week, then claimed an assist for the second, cutting in from the right before slipping in Eisfeld to crash home.
Eisfeld then came close to the hat-trick his performance merited when he took aim from 25 yards in the second half and hit the bar with a thunderous effort.
Despite late pressure from Everton, Terry Burton’s side held on to claim another well-earned victory. And coupled with strong showings from Wilshere, Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Frimpong, it was another encouraging afternoon for the Club.
Burton made four changes to the side that beat Reading last time out, the most notable absentee being Serge Gnabry, who made his Premier League debut at Norwich on Saturday.
Arsenal eased past Everton 3-0 at Underhill at the start of September, but found things much tougher this time around - and they fell behind as early as the fifth minute.
It came as Vellios robbed Ignasi Miquel and ran through to place his shot past Martinez. It was a disconcerting start, but the Gunners’ immediate response was impressive.
Indeed, within 60 seconds they almost restored parity as Eisfeld broke through the middle and let fly with a 25-yard strike that Jan Mucha parried.
But Burton’s side did not have long to wait, and this time the German did find his way past the goalkeeper. Wilshere was the creator, sliding a good ball through to Meade on the left flank. There was still much to be done, but the full-back took a touch past Tony Hibbert and cut the ball back for Eisfeld to slam home from close range.
Wilshere has been growing in confidence in recent matches, and that was evident once more in the 32nd minute when he sent a glorious raking pass over the top of the home defence for Meade in the area. The left back took the ball down well, but his right-footed half-volley flew wide.
Moments later they did snatch the lead, with Wilshere once again at the heart of the move. The England international cut in from the right, drew the defender and slipped in Eisfeld, who emphatically drilled the ball past Mucha.
Arsenal were moving through the gears and almost immediately they came close to a third as Frimpong stung the hands of Mucha with a 25-yard free kick.
The second half continued in the same vein, and with a similar intensity to the first with both sides flying into challenges and pushing and probing at each other.
For all their hard work, though, there was little in the way of chances.
It was Arsenal who retained more threat in attack, and Eisfeld came agonisingly close to his hat-trick just after the hour mark with a powerful effort that rattled the crossbar.
Substitute Jon Toral also had a late chance but scuffed his shot, but Arsenal had done enough to claim the three points from a positive afternoon on Merseyside.
- Wilshere Yellow Card
- Eisfeld 73 Goal! Goal!
- Neita 84
- Bellerin 84
- Toral 73
- Hitzlsperger Yellow Card
- Vellios 68 Goal!
- Kelly 46
- Forrester 68