Arsenal Under-19s maintained their 100 per cent start to this year’s Uefa Youth League with another imperious display to beat Napoli Under-19s 4-1 on Wednesday night at Boreham Wood.
A brace apiece from Chuba Akpom and Austin Lipman ensured the youngsters, like the first team, sit top of their group in Europe.
Akpom fired home from the spot to give the Gunners a slender first-half lead before two quickfire strikes from Lipman gave Arsenal breathing space. Gerrardo Rubino pulled a goal back for the Italian side midway through the second half but Akpom notched his second with just over 10 minutes remaining.
SETTING THE SCENE
Steve Gatting made three changes to the side that played against Marseille. Isaac Hayden and Akpom were available again after they were called up to the first-team squad for the trip to south France. Since that game, Serge Gnabry has become a regular fixture in Arsene Wenger’s squad which meant Lipman was given a chance to impress up front. Hayden returned to skipper the side at centre-half.
The Gunners started brightly with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi threatening from the flanks. Lipman created the first opening in the 12th minute, threading a ball through to Akpom which the forward fired wide from a tight angle.
Jack Jebb forced Nikita Contini Baranovksy into his first save of the game in the 25th minute when he fired a free-kick towards the top corner but the visiting keeper did well to beat the ball away to safety.
It was a half that passed by without much incident until the 28th minute. Glen Kamara found Lipman in space on just inside the box before the forward was tripped by Armando Anastasio. The referee pointed to the spot and Akpom sent Baranovsky the wrong way to give Arsenal, on balance of play, a deserved lead.
Arsenal took full control of the game with two goals in two minutes from Lipman and it was his link-up play with Akpom that did the damage.
In the 52nd minute Akpom found Lipman in space just inside the box and the forward slotted home with a cool finish into the bottom corner. A minute later, the game was put beyond doubt and it was the same duo who were at it again.
Kamara played the ball up to Akpom who held it well before teeing up Lipman to curl a sublime effort past the helpless Baranovksy.
In the 61st minute the Gunners missed a glorious chance to put the game beyond doubt. The tireless Akpom twisted and turned in the box before he was tripped by Michele Girardi. But this time Baranovsky made an excellent stop deny Akpom his brace, diving low to his right to parry the ball away.
Arsenal may have lived to regret that miss when the visitors pulled a goal back against the run of play. Gennaro Tutino whipped in a searching cross for Rubino to power a header past Iliev.
The hosts were starting to live dangerously and Napoli should have halved the deficit three minutes later when substitute Andrea Mancini volleyed over from the six-yard box.
But Arsenal continued to throw men forward and were rewarded with just over 10 minutes to go. Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill marauded down the left before sending in a low cross that Akpom was on-hand to tap home.
Akpom could have completed his hat-trick three minutes later when he weaved past three defenders but could only curl over.
The Academy have certainly taken a likening to this newly-formed competition so far and it seems anything the first-team can do, they can do better.
UEFA Youth League Group F
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