Arsenal Under-21s were beaten by West Ham United for the third time this season at a wet and blustery London Colney on Monday afternoon.
First-half goals from Wellington Paulista and Matthias Fanimo did the damage on an afternoon where a lack of end product and profligacy in front of goal cost Terry Burton’s side dearly.
Arsenal had chances to come back into the game, notably when Thomas Eisfeld was somehow denied by a combination of Raphael Spiegel and Jordan Spence at the start of the second half.
But despite dominating possession for large periods after the break, it was just not to be.
Burton made eight changes from the first-team filled side that drew against West Bromwich Albion last time out, with only Sead Hajrovic, Martin Angha and Eisfeld retaining their places in the starting line-up.
Chuks Aneke and Daniel Boateng were back after the completion of their loan spells, while Nico Yennaris and captain for the day Ignasi Miquel also started after recovering from injury.
The visitors began brightly, and could have taken the lead five minutes in. George Moncur found space on the right side of the penalty area and flashed a low shot inches wide.
Elliot Lee was next to go close as West Ham continued to make the early running, cutting inside before seeing a shot deflected just wide.
After 20 minutes, the pressure told. Paulista beat Martinez to an inswinging corner and headed home powerfully.
And worse was to come. Just 10 minutes later, Fanimo cut inside Miquel and sent over a cross that floated across goal before nestling in at the far post.
That setback spurred Arsenal into action and, after a lovely move had resulted in Angha feeding Eisfeld, only a fine save by Spiegel prevented the German’s cushioned volley from finding the bottom corner.
Eisfeld has enjoyed a productive season for the under-21s, and he again looked the home side’s biggest threat here.
He went close to halving the deficit from close range five minutes after the restart, but was denied first by Spiegel and then by some desperate last-ditch defending as the visitors battled to hold their two-goal advantage.
The game became increasingly open. Neita snatched at a decent chance before Fanimo ran up the other end and sent a fierce low shot just wide.
Angha was next to go close for Arsenal, sending in a shot from the edge of the box that deflected off Eisfeld and was well kept out by Spiegel.
After that though, it became more difficult for Burton’s team to break through, with the visitors seemingly content to sit behind the ball and contain.
They broke out 15 minutes from time and almost increased their advantage, though Martinez was on hand to save well from Elliot Lee.
Then Yennaris was presented with a glorious chance to bring his side back into the game, but skewed over from inside the area.
It proved to be the last chance of note, with Burton left to rue missed opportunities as West Ham left London Colney with three points for the second time this campaign.
- Boateng 46
- Neita 58
- Ansah 75
- Bihmoutine 46
- Wynter 75
- Rees 58
West Ham U21
- Frazer Shaw
- Pelly Ruddock
- Elliot Lee
- Amos Nasha 67
- Fanimo Goal!
- Paulista 61 Goal!
- Jake Larkins
- Maguire 61
- Taylor Miles 67
- Kieran Bywater