By Nik Brumsack at Underhill
Hector Bellerin was the hero as Arsenal Under-21s came from behind to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers at Underhill on Tuesday night.
The visitors took the lead through Jake Cassidy in the opening seconds of the second half but Steve Gatting’s side quickly drew level through the predatory Chuba Akpom.
The game looked set to end as a draw but, just as he did against Manchester United last month, Bellerin struck in the dying stages to give the hosts three points.
Gatting made eight changes from the team that were beaten by Tottenham Hotspur last time out, with Nico Yennaris, Jernade Meade and Akpom the only survivors from the side defeated in the north London derby.
Jordan Wynter and Elton Monteiro came in as the centre-half partnership, with Bellerin and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill occupying the full-back slots.
Josh Rees started for the first time in four games while Sanchez Watt, whose stoppage-time winner sealed victory when Arsenal met Wolves earlier this month, was named in attack.
In a physical start, both sides struggled to carve out a clear opportunity. Yennaris fired over from a tight angle on the quarter-hour but, that aside, chances were at a premium.
Yennaris went closer after half an hour, finding a pocket of space 25 yards out before flashing a shot that went inches wide.
As a low-key first half drew to a close, the hosts thought they had earned a penalty.
Watt raced on to Wynter’s clearance and went through before going down under Jamie Tank’s challenge. The referee waved play on, to the dismay of the striker.
But after an uneventful 45 minutes, the second half exploded to life. And for the second successive game, Arsenal conceded in the first minute after the break.
Zeli Ismail burst through midfield before freeing Sam Winnall on the right. The forward looked up before swinging a cross into the box for the unmarked Cassidy to nod beyond Vickers.
Just five minutes later, the Arsenal No 1 had to make a superb stop to keep out Ethan Ebanks-Landell’s header from six yards.
Slowly though, the hosts began to stamp their authority on proceedings and they drew level after 54 minutes.
Meade and Watt combined before the latter drove to the byline and delivered a fizzing low cross that Akpom tapped home from four yards out.
The striker came close to adding another on the hour, stabbing Meade’s inviting cross narrowly off target.
Meade, whose influence on proceedings continued to grow as the game progressed, then flashed a shot wide and Craig Eastmond had an appeal for a penalty rejected as the hosts continued to create chances.
Gnabry’s introduction 20 minutes from time added invention and guile but it was Wolves who nearly took the lead shortly after when Ismail shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
The game looked set to finish level but, just as they had done at New Bucks Head, Arsenal struck the decisive blow late on.
After Wolves failed to deal with a cross, Gnabry found Bellerin. The full back burst into the area and held off the challenge of Reckord before slamming a shot into the roof of the net to seal victory.
- Bellerin Goal!
- Akpom Goal!
- Rees 73
- Gnabry 73
- Ebanks-Landell Yellow Card
- Evans Yellow Card
- Cassidy Goal!
- McAlinden 39
- Winnall 39