By Isaac Moore at London Colney
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continued on his path to full fitness with another 60 minutes of action but Arsenal Under-21s were beaten 4-2 by Liverpool on Monday afternoon.
It was the Gunners’ second straight defeat but this was a useful workout for Oxlade-Chamberlain and also Gedion Zelalem, both of whom have missed a chunk of the season through injury.
Michael Ngoo gave Liverpool an early advantage before Benik Afobe bundled home an eqauliser. Further goals from Ngoo and Brad Smith in the first half and a breakaway goal from Kris Peterson just after the hour put Liverpool out of reach before Isaac Hayden scored a late consolation.
SETTING THE SCENE
Steve Gatting made five changes to the side that lost to Middlesbrough last week.
Oxlade-Chamberlain started in the centre of midfield alongside Zelalem and Emmanuel Frimpong with skipper Hayden dropping back into defence to replace Julio Pleguezuelo.
Carl Jenkinson came in at full back while Jon Toral returned to play on the left wing.
The game got off to a frantic start and it was the visitors who made an early breakthrough.
In the fourth minute forward Ngoo was found unmarked inside the Arsenal box and he calmly rounded the onrushing Matt Macey and slotted into an empty net.
Arsenal almost produced an immediate response when Afobe found Thomas Eisfeld in space but the German’s shot was blocked by Liverpool goalkeeper Dan Ward.
The Gunners continued to probe and in the 25th minute they found a leveller.
Jenkinson powered down the right-hand side and got to the byline before firing in a cross. The ball rebounded off Afobe, leaving Ward helpless, and the Arsenal forward poked the ball over the line.
Four minutes later Liverpool were back in front. Peterson floated a teasing cross towards the back post and Ngoo was there to head the ball into the ground and past Macey.
Ten minutes before half-time, Frimpong went close to putting Arsenal back on terms again. The midfielder’s initial free-kick hit the wall and rebounded straight back to him, prompting a first-time volley that flashed just wide of the post.
Arsenal continued to push forward and were caught on the counter-attack five minutes before the break. Ngoo picked up possession midway inside the Arsenal half and was challenged by Hayden, but the ball ricocheted into Brad Smith’s path and he unleashed an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net.
The visitors began the second half strongly, forcing a number of corners as Arsenal looked short of ideas going forward.
And on 64 minutes the result was put beyond doubt after another Liverpool counter-attack. The ball was worked wide to Peterson, who burst into space in the channel before shooting under the advancing Macey.
Two minutes later Frimpong, who was Arsenal’s brightest player in the second half, forced Ward to tip the ball behind with a low free-kick from 30 yards.
As against Middlesbrough last week, Arsenal dominated possession in the final stages but couldn’t do enough to break down a stubborn and well-organised Liverpool defence.
Frimpong tried his luck with a curling effort on 81 minutes but Ward was equal to it again, pushing the ball wide.
Hayden reduced the deficit in the 87th minute with a neatly-placed effort under Evans after good work on the left wing from Toral. But in the end it was a comfortable win for the visitors.
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