By Joe Brewin at London Colney
Arsenal Under-18s returned to winning ways with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Ipswich at London Colney on Friday.
Kristoffer Olsson’s early strike put Steve Bould’s side ahead, before Ipswich captain Callum Bennett equalised midway through the second half.
But the young Gunners were not to be deterred and restored their lead through Philip Roberts, before Josh Rees made the points safe late in the tie.
Bould handed starts to young duo Chuba Akpom and Anthony Jeffrey, while Sean McDermott was chosen between the posts.
On a crisp afternoon at Colney, it was Arsenal who demonstrated the early cutting edge and took the lead after just three minutes.
The lively Olsson picked the ball up from a wide position before drifting inside and firing a delightful drive into the bottom corner past Ipswich goalkeeper Conor O’Donnell.
The opening exchanges saw the hosts in complete control, with McDermott rarely tested. It took until the 16th minute for the Irish youth international’s first involvement as he comfortably held a hopeful Ipswich effort.
Bould’s side maintained their slender advantage with relative ease, but ultimately offered little going forward as the half wore on. Nevertheless, it was Arsenal who took the deserved half-time lead.
Ipswich emerged a rejuvenated outfit. Although Hector Bellerin tested the water early on with a powerful drive to force O’Donnell into action, the visitors enjoyed the better of the early play in the second period.
Indeed, they should have drawn themselves level five minutes after the restart. Tom Winter’s pinpoint cross from the right found Carel Tiofack in space, but the Ipswich forward nodded wide with the goal at his mercy.
But, eight minutes later, they did equalise. After a melee inside the Arsenal penalty area, Ipswich captain Bennett picked the ball up on the right corner of the penalty area before curling an excellent strike past McDermott.
With half an hour left on the clock, Bould’s side had work to do and five minutes later they found a quick reply.
O’Donnell failed to deal with Olsson’s corner from the left, allowing a well-placed Roberts to ghost in at the back post and find the target from a tight angle.
On the balance of play it was no more than they deserved, even if Ipswich had enjoyed the better of the second half up to that point.
But Arsenal finally extended their advantage with just over 10 minutes left on the clock as substitute Rees picked the ball up on the edge of the area before swivelling and firing a low drive into the bottom corner.
By this point, Ipswich had run out of steam and, more importantly, ideas. Bould’s youngsters strolled to the dying embers at a canter - but there was still time for more drama.
Roberts won the hosts a late penalty when Nicolay Schroder hauled him down inside the penalty area. Nigel Neita stepped up and put his penalty to the left, only to be denied by the outstretched O’Donnell.
It mattered not, however, as the Under-18s secured their third win in four matches to keep them in the hunt for the Academy Premier League title.
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