By Isaac Moore in Newcastle
Arsenal Under-21s brought their season to a close with a 3-1 win at Newcastle United on Friday afternoon.
The Gunners fell behind inside two minutes through a Lubomir Satka header but a brace from Chuba Akpom and late strike from Ainsley Mailtand-Niles secured a hard-fought victory.
This was Arsenal's third league win in an inconsistent second half of the campaign. They finish the season with 26 points from 21 games.
SETTING THE SCENE
Monday's defeat meant Arsenal could not secure a top-half finish, and as a result they will be playing in the second tier of the newly-organised Under-21 Premier League next season.
But this match was a chance to finish the season on a high.
The Gunners' afternoon got off to the worst possible start when Newcastle scored inside two minutes. Michael Richardson's corner from the left was met by the unmarked Satka inside the six-yard box and his powerful header gave Matt Macey no chance.
Arsenal squandered three good chances to draw level before the 10-minute mark. Firstly Zelalem drove into the box before forcing Freddie Woodman to tip away at the near post, before the Newcastle keeper made two smart blocks to deny Kris Olsson and O'Connor.
In the 15th minute, Zelalem and Jon Toral combined neatly before the German teed up Akpom whose drive was pushed behind by Woodman from point-blank range.
The hosts missed a big chance to double their advantage on 37 minutes. Jonathyn Quinn skipped past Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill before firing a low cross into Gael Bigirimana's path. The midfielder had just Macey to beat but rattled his shot off the post.
And moments later Arsenal were level. Maitland-Niles spotted the run of Akpom and found him with a slide-rule pass. The forward calmly stroked past Woodman to score his 13th goal of the season.
Gatting's side controlled the early stages of the second period without causing Woodman any trouble.
Then, in the 62nd minute, Toral put Akpom in on goal and the striker was felled cynically by Kevin Mbabu to give the referee an easy decision in pointing to the spot.
The forward picked himself up and slotted past Woodman from 12 yards to give Arsenal a deserved lead.
Alex Gillead and Daniel Barlaser had chances to equalise for Newcastle but both efforts were straight at Macey. The Arsenal stopper also tipped over a Richardson free-kick.
Akpom had a chance to complete his hat-trick late on when beat two players before bearing down on goal but Woodman got down low to tip his shot behind.
Maitland-Niles sealed the points in stoppage time with a composed finish from well-weighted Toral pass. It capped off a highly-assured performance from Gatting's men.
- Bellerin 72
- Maitland-Niles Goal! Yellow Card
- Zelalem 75
- Akpom Goal! Goal!
- Moore 72
- Jebb 75
- Satka Goal!
- Olley 57
- Barlaser 57