By Max Jones at St James’ Park
Arsenal Under-21s battled to a 2-1 victory against Newcastle United in front of 1,305 fans at St James’ Park on Monday.
The win saw the young Gunners leapfrog West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough into second in the Under-21 Premier League, behind Newcastle on goal difference.
Alex Iwobi put Arsenal ahead midway through the first half, cutting in from the left to bury a shot into the bottom corner. Dan Barlaser volleyed in from 18 yards to equalise, but Austin Lipman scored a 90th-minute winner to secure the victory.
The Gunners also saw Serge Gnabry complete a valuable 65 minutes as he continued his rehabilitation from a knee injury that kept him out for four months.
SETTING THE SCENE
Steve Gatting made four changes to the side that drew 2-2 at Wolverhampton Wanderers in January.
Gnabry featured for the first time since the 3-0 win at Stoke City in September, and Iwobi led the line in the absence of first-team substitute Chuba Akpom.
Elsewhere Deyan Iliev returned from injury to make his first start this season in place of Matt Macey - who is currently on loan at Accrington Stanley - while George Dobson and Marc Bola replaced Semi Ajayi and Chiori Johnson.
With Chris Willock, Kaylen Hinds, Stephy Mavididi and Ben Sheaf representing Arsenal Under-17s at the Al Kass International Cup in Qatar, several youngsters including Lipman - who recently returned from his Boreham Wood loan - had the chance to impress against the league leaders.
Arsenal started the brighter. Their quick one-touch passing stretched the home side and Dan Crowley was unlucky to see his shot creep just wide after the young Gunners had worked the ball into the box.
Newcastle threatened when Alex Gillead beat Renny Smith for pace and squared to Adam Armstrong for a simple finish, but Dobson hurled himself in front of the shot to deflect it over.
Arsenal’s sharpness and quick interplay was causing the hosts problems and they came close to scoring again when Iwobi latched onto Gedion Zelalem’s backheel, but Freddie Woodman got down well to save.
However, it only took one more attack for the Gunners to find the net. Iwobi collected the ball on the right wing, cut inside two defenders and rifled a low strike into the bottom corner to give Arsenal a deserved lead going into the break.
Newcastle looked revitalised after the restart and Dobson was forced into another committed block to deny Armstrong when the forward crept into the box and shot from six yards.
But Arsenal could only keep the hosts out for five more minutes. Armstrong won the ball on the right wing and Iliev could only beat his shot as far as Barlaser, who volleyed into the far corner.
Gnabry lasted 65 minutes before being replaced by Lipman, and the substitute nearly made an instant impact when his header from Crowley’s corner was held by Woodman.
Woodman then denied Smith and Aaron Eyoma in quick succession as both sides looked for a winner, before Lipman headed in Eyoma’s cross in the 90th minute to announce his return to the under-21s.
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