By Lloyd Webb at Upton Park
Chris Willock’s dramatic equaliser earned Arsenal Under-21s a hard fought 1-1 draw against West Ham United at Upton Park on Monday.
Both sides had plenty of chances during the first half but it was the hosts who went into the break ahead after Alex Pike capitalised on a defensive error.
Arsenal were forced to withstand heavy pressure after the restart but soon found their feet, with Donyell Malen threatening.
Steve Gatting’s side finally found a breakthrough nine minutes from the end when Willock raced down the flank and saw his deflected strike creep into the bottom corner.
Ben Sheaf and Malen went close before the final whistle but the Gunners had to settle for a point.
Setting the Scene
Gatting made one change to the starting XI that beat Brighton 2-1 at The Amex two weeks ago.
Calum Chambers had been involved with the first team against Aston Villa on Sunday and was duly replaced by Dan Crowley in midfield.
Meanwhile, Alex Iwobi returned to under-21 action having joined Chambers on the bench in the senior's side win at Villa Park.
Arsenal began the game looking to attack and almost took the lead after seven minutes when Malen forced Raphael Spiegel into a fantastic save from a few yards out.
West Ham could have taken the lead twice in quick succession soon after. Jaanai Gordon had the ball in the back of the net on two separate occasions, only to be denied by the offside flag on both occasions.
Malen continued to look dangerous and went close to opening the scoring when he managed to connect with a loose ball in the box. However, the forward was denied by Spiegel again.
The game's first goal arrived soon after - and it came for the hosts. A defensive error gifted Pike a golden opportunity and the midfielder applied a composed finish.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide went closest to equalising for the visitors before the break, but the Gunners went into half-time a goal down.
West Ham continued to play at a high intensity after the break and could have scored again had it not been for a good reflex save from Macey to deny Gordon.
The hosts kept coming and had a goal ruled out for a third time after Djair Parfitt-Williams was adjudged offside after advancing beyond the Gunners' back four.
Arsenal fought back and Malen threatened again 10 minutes after the restart, outpacing his marker before firing inches wide of the far post.
The striker’s hard work almost paid off again 15 minutes before the break, when he managed to get in behind West Ham’s defence before attempting an audacious chip that went over the bar.
Arsenal's pressure paid off late on. Willock embarked on a lung-busting run down the flank and saw his deflected strike creep into the bottom corner.
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