By Nik Brumsack at Underhill
Arsenal Under-21s said goodbye to Underhill with a 1-1 draw against Liverpool on Friday night.
In their final game at the stadium, Thomas Eisfeld lit up an otherwise tight encounter when he struck just after the break, firing into the top corner from just outside the area.
But just when it looked as though Arsenal would end their season with a victory, Villyan Bijev knocked home Jordan Ibe’s cross to seal a deserved share of the points for the visitors.
In the first half, it was Liverpool who looked the most likely to win the game.
However, attacking down the slope in the second half, the young Gunners found a new wind and came so close to sealing their second successive win.
Despite the late setback, it’s been a season full of positives for the under-21s and the coaching staff will be confident that some of the team’s top performers can kick on next season.
Steve Gatting made seven changes from the team that had secured a late victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the week.
Damian Martinez was back in goal after recovering from illness, while full backs Jernade Meade and Hector Bellerin, who scored the winner on Tuesday night, were both retained.
Martin Angha, making his last appearance before his summer move to FC Nuremberg, started at centre back alongside Sead Hajrovic.
Elsewhere, Gedion Zelalem, Eisfeld and Serge Gnabry were all back in the team and lined up as the attacking triumvirate behind lone striker Chuba Akpom.
The game began high on commitment but low on chances.
Akpom’s physical presence caused more than the occasional problem for Stephen Sama but that aside, Arsenal did not pose much of a threat in the opening stages.
At the other end, Krisztian Adorjan, who impressed when the sides met at Anfield last month, began brightly, combining well with Ibe and Kris Peterson.
After 25 minutes, only a terrific double save by Martinez prevented the visitors from taking the lead.
The goalkeeper somehow pawed Peterson’s header away before blocking Ibe’s follow-up effort away to safety.
Peterson then stabbed wide before Gnabry tested Ward with a free-kick at the other end.
In truth, the first 45 minutes had produced little in terms of excitement.
Five minutes into the second half however, Eisfeld produced a moment of brilliance worthy of being the last goal scored at Underhill.
Picking the ball up from Zelalem 30 yards out, the German strode forward before lashing a shot into the top corner from just outside the D.
It was a great way for the 20-year-old to finish a season that had started so positively but has been disrupted by injury in the new year.
Where they were somewhat flat in the opening period, Arsenal had really come to life after the break.
Bellerin embarked on a surging run before crossing for Meade to fire over, then Akpom and Gnabry both dragged efforts narrowly wide of the near post.
Still, the visitors, led by the lively Ibe, came back, with Hajrovic showing real alertness to clear one particularly dangerous cross.
With the pressure mounting, Adorjan flashed a shot just wide before Bijev struck late on, caressing home from close range after Ibe had again run riot down the wing.
Both sides poured men forwards in stoppage time but neither could find a winner. In the end, the draw was the right result.
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