By Giuseppe Muro
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas scored a stunning second-half hat-trick and set up a fourth as Arsenal beat West Ham 4-1 on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old continued his impressive form in front of goal with two trademark left-foot efforts and a penalty to give Neil Benfield’s side all three points on bleak afternoon at London Colney.
Emmanuel-Thomas had already laid on a goal for Chuks Aneke just prior to the break before sinking the Hammers with his sublime treble.
The game was something of a landmark fixture as for the first time ever a Reserve League fixture was being held at the Club’s training ground.
Manager Banfield named a strong starting XI against a side that had won their opening three games without conceding a goal. First-team regular Carlos Vela partnered Aneke up front as Benik Afobe dropped to the bench after a hat-trick of his own for England Under-19s over the international break.
Henri Lansbury started at the heart of the Arsenal midfield and Gilles Sunu made his first start since returning from a knee injury. Ignasi Miquel again skippered the side.
There was a slightly strange feel to the start of the game, as without any supporters or atmosphere both teams struggled to get into a rhythm early on. The game had the feel of a practice match.
Lansbury was twice rebuffed by goalkeeper Marek Stech in the opening 15 minutes as he began to be instrumental in everything Arsenal did. He was both a willing supporter to the strikers and also a disruptive thorn in West Ham's sides.
The game struggled to really get going as both sides exchanged possession. That was until Arsenal took the lead two minutes before the break.
Neat link up play from Aneke and Emmanuel-Thomas created space for the latter inside the penalty area. He got to the byline and when his low cross hit Stech, Aneke was on hand to head home the bouncing ball at the far post. The striker showing great reactions to finish well from a yard.
If the first half was a slightly lethargic affair, the second was anything but.
Arsenal started with real tempo and energy from the off as they passed the ball sharply and hurried their opponents in possession as the rain began to pour down in north London.
Four minutes after the break Emmanuel-Thomas got his first. He jinked past three defenders inside the area before neatly slotting the ball into the net to double Arsenal’s lead.
Vela twice went close with curling efforts but it wasn’t until the 80th minute that the Gunners got their third from the penalty spot. Substitute Rhys Murphy was hauled down by James Tomkins inside the area and when Emmanuel-Thomas lashed home the resulting spot kick the game was won.
All that was left now was for the striker to complete his treble. He did that five minutes later with what has now become a trademark left-foot strike from outside the area. He ran towards goal before unleashing a shot into the top corner and past a now sorry figure in Stech.
There was only time left for Julian Faubert to receive a straight red card for an off the ball incident and Ahmed Abdulla to score a consolation from the penalty spot in the final few minutes.
The day though, belonged to Emmanuel-Thomas.
Referee: K Johnson
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