By Lloyd Webb
A late Gedion Zelalem goal secured victory for Arsenal in their first Under-21 Premier League game of the season against Fulham.
The Gunners were frustrated by the Cottagers throughout the match as their positive attacking play was thwarted by a resilient defence.
Alex Iwobi, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ben Sheaf were a threat and had chances, but just as the game looked to be heading for a draw, Zelalem got the deciding goal in the 86th minute.
SETTING THE SCENE
Steve Gatting selected a strong side at Emirates Stadium, with Julio Pleguezuelo named skipper for the night while the likes Iwobi and Reine-Adelaide started, having previously featured in the Emirates Cup.
Krystian Bielik was also included, while Sheaf made his Under-21 debut, having been named Player of the Tournament at the recent Durban International Tournament.
Josh Smile almost put Fulham ahead in the 18th minute when he latched onto Aaron Redford’s pull back, but his shot was held by Matt Macey.
Stephy Mavididi had the best chance of the half after Tafari Moore’s driven cross found the striker, but Jesse Joronen denied him with a reflex save in the 30th minute.
Reine-Adelaide cut in from the left flank two minutes later and curled a shot inches over the bar as the half came to a close.
Reine-Adelaide came close to breaking the deadlock in the 49th minute when his volley inside the box was tipped on to the bar by Joronen.
With 20 minutes to go, Sheaf drilled the ball at goal, forcing Joronen to make a diving save to his left.
There was late drama as Zelalem grabbed the winning goal of the game following some quick passing and steered the ball into the bottom corner to the delight of the home fans.
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