By Joe Brewin at London Colney
Arsenal Under-18s continued their 100 per cent start to the New Year with a dominant 5-0 victory over Portsmouth at London Colney on Saturday.
First-half goals from Jon Toral and Philip Roberts sent Steve Bould’s side on their way to the win, before Serge Gnabry, Chuba Akpom and Anthony Jeffrey completed the task in the second period.
It was no more than their dominance deserved after a fine display against the side rock bottom of the Academy Premier League. Portsmouth held just two league wins to their name before the game and Arsenal made them pay once more.
Bould handed an Under-18s debut to Brandon Ormond at left back, while Reserve hopefuls Toral, Jordan Wynter and Gnabry were all named in the starting line-up.
On a blustery day at London Colney it was Bould’s side who took control from kick off.
The testing conditions could have played a frustrating factor but it took just 13 minutes for the young Gunners to edge ahead. A sweeping move upfield ended with the ball in the back of the net as Toral finished off from compatriot Hector Bellerin's pass.
It was a goal that oozed Arsenal education, a quick counter-attack paying dividends handsomely.
Reice Charles-Cook was rarely called into action in the first period but handled well under pressure from two set-pieces in the swirling winds.
Roberts could have doubled the hosts’ advantage midway through the half but dragged his shot wide after bearing down on goal.
It took until the 32nd minute for Portsmouth to register their first attempt on goal, as Patrick Antelmi - scorer when the two sides met earlier in the season - volleyed wide.
The visitors had their moments but were outplayed for the majority of the first half. Gnabry teed up Nigel Neita on the edge of the area with five minutes of the half remaining but the winger pulled his effort narrowly past the post.
But Bould’s side did manage to double their advantage on the stroke of half time. It was crafted beautifully by Gnabry, the Germany youth international chipping into the path of Roberts to nod into the bottom corner.
The second half proved a similar story. Once again Arsenal flew out of the traps, dominated possession and put their south-coast visitors to the sword.
Isaac Hayden’s rare foray forward produced a fine save from Matthew Gledhill, before Toral almost added a third from Kristoffer Olsson’s excellent ball over the top.
Arsenal did hit a third on the hour mark when Gnabry drove into the area and let fly to leave Gledhill with no chance this time. It was proving to be a fine morning for Gnabry, involved heavily in the game’s first two goals.
Olsson called the Portsmouth goalkeeper into action immediately after, before Antelmi summed up the visitors’ miserable afternoon just minutes later. The striker latched onto a hopeful long ball over the top and rounded Charles-Cook before falling over with the open goal at his mercy.
If Portsmouth thought their luck was out, their woe was compounded with 15 minutes remaining as substitute Akpom found the bottom corner from Olsson’s neat through ball.
And just five minutes later it was five for Bould’s side. Jeffrey, introduced alongside goalscorer Akpom, ensured his name was on the scoresheet with a neat finish to seal an emphatic win for Arsenal’s youngsters.
Next up for the Under-18s is a trip to face West Ham next Saturday.
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