By Nik Brumsack at Underhill
Arsenal marched into the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup after producing an impressive performance to see off Newcastle at Underhill.
First-half goals by Anthony Jeffrey and Hector Bellerin set them on their way, before Chuba Akpom put the gloss on the win by adding a third just before full time.
The Gunners dominated for large periods, creating all manner of chances with a display that will have delighted Steve Gatting.
Deyan Iliev made just his second start for the Club in goal, while Isaac Hayden partnered Zac Fagan in defence. Alfred Mugabo was the shield in midfield, with attacking trio Jon Toral, Jeffrey and Kris Olsson lining up behind lone striker Akpom.
Arsenal made a fast start, clearly eager to erase the memory of last season’s third-round defeat to Derby County.
The football was fluid, the passing crisp and the movement incisive.
Olsson, Jeffrey and Bellerin all created opportunities for Toral in the opening 10 minutes as the home side began with purpose. Twice the midfielder’s aim let him down, and when he did get it right, Freddie Woodman was on hand to make a fine reflex save from close range.
The visitors were struggling to live with Arsenal’s play. Bellerin and Jeffrey in particular were causing all sorts of trouble down the right-hand side, though Gatting’s team were often let down by the final pass.
There was a sense that a goal was coming, and it duly arrived midway through the half.
Akpom advanced to the halfway line before sliding a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of Jeffrey. The winger accelerated clear of the defence before firing a powerful shot into the bottom corner.
Despite having the lead, Arsenal stayed on the attack. Akpom could have done better after Olsson had set him up, then after 33 minutes Hayden’s glancing header was headed off the line.
It had been a convincing first-half performance by Gatting’s youngsters, and they added the second goal their play merited just before the interval.
Bellerin embarked on yet another marauding run before exchanging passes with Toral and keeping his composure to coolly slot past Woodman.
It was a lovely goal and one that the defender had earned with an impressive showing.
Newcastle introduced Adam Armstrong for Lee Desmond at the break in a bid to turn things around, and they created the first chance of the second period when Steve Logan dispossessed Fagan and charged through. Fortunately for the defender, Hayden raced back to block the eventual shot.
Arsenal’s display after the break was equally impressive, albeit in a different way. They kept the ball for large periods, maneuvering the visitors this way and that, while keeping the door solidly shut at the back.
When they did create opportunities, Jeffrey and his sheer speed were often at the heart of their forward forays.
He saw a goalbound effort blocked behind while Jebb shot wide as Gatting’s team searched for the killer third goal.
In the end, they had to wait until two minutes from time to finish the game off. Olsson broke with purpose before releasing Bellerin. The full back charged forward and crossed for Akpom to tap home and seal a very satisfying display.
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