Arsenal U23 4-0 Sunderland U23
Arsenal under-23s forced Sunderland to return to Wearside empty handed as they produced a masterclass display in the Premier League 2 on Friday evening.
While the Gunners began the game well, the first chance fell to Rees Greenwood who breezed through but was denied by the outstretched leg of Krystian Bielik on eight minutes.
A spell of strong pressure from the hosts then ensued as they began to force the issue but Reiss Nelson was left with his head in his hands as he failed to hit the target from close range after a cross from the right.
Arsenal soon made their pressure pay and with 28 minutes on the clock, Stephy Mavididi dispatched a spot kick to hand the hosts a slender advantage.
Sunderland continued to fashion a number of openings, Elliot Embleton, George Honeyman and George Brady had the best of them but the Lads went in at the break behind.
The Gunners romped through the gears in the second period and they scored three goals – through Nelson, Kaylen Hinds and Chris Willock - in 11 minutes to put the game beyond Sunderland’s reach.
Chasing their first league victory in four matches, Andy Welsh named an unchanged starting XI from Sunday’s draw at Eppleton CW against Reading.
Joel Asoro began the night up top with Honeyman buzzing around him in a slightly deeper No.10 role. Greenwood and Embleton started on either flanks with Tommy Robson and Josh Robson providing support behind them.
Brady and Michael Ledger held the foundations of the team together in the heart of the defence while Ethan Robson and Daniel Wright added some further depth to the spin in the middle of the park.
Arsenal began the night on the front foot and quickly penned Sunderland deep in their own half as they confidently knocked the ball from side to side.
But as ever Welsh’s side were well organised and were able to relieve the pressure as they made the most of Asoro’s pace in behind.
Greenwood had the game’s first chance on eight minutes as he pounced on a loose pass from Bielik. The winger drove at the heart of the Gunners backline but was unable to fashion a shot as he over ran the play.
The hosts hit back and went close midway through the opening period as Nelson failed to get a touch on Chioro Johnson’s drilled ball from the right which flashed across the face of goal.
Four minutes later, Arsenal went ahead in controversial circumstances after a quick one-two on the edge of the box saw Nelson felled and the referee had no hesitation as he pointed to the spot, much to the dismay of Sunderland’s backroom staff.
Mavididi stepped up and calmly dispatched the penalty into the bottom left corner, beyond the reach of Max Stryjek.
Sunderland rallied back but went in at the break behind after Honeyman sliced an effort of the top, Embleton bent his free-kick round the far post and Brady saw his powered header denied by Macey’s fingertips.
The hosts began the second period in the same vain as they opened the match, Ismael Bennacer had Stryjek back pedalling as he lashed a half volley perilously over the bar before Nelson doubled the hosts’ lead.
The midfielder timed his run to perfection and tapped home a low cross from the left as the Gunners began to find their rhythm and romp through the gears.
Then, just three minutes later, the Black Cats were dealt another blow as Hinds made the most of Stryjek’s spill and poked home from six yards to make it 3-0.
Sunderland continued to work hard and thought they had pulled one back when Honeyman fed Asoro, the Swede clipped the ball over Macey and into the net but as he went to wheel away the referee chalked the goal off for offside.
Luke Moylneux and Josh Maja entered the fray in the 64th minute but that couldn't prevent the onslaught as Stryjek did well to palm away Chris Willock’s rasping drive from range.
And just as Stryjek thought he had dealt with the danger, another attack lay siege on his goal, time Willock made no mistake as he rammed the ball beyond the helpless ‘keeper.
Chances came and went for the Black Cats to reduce the deficit, Embleton moved into the centre of the park to fill the void left by Wright while Greenwood and Honeyman continued to provide bags of creativity in the final third.
But Arsenal held firm to prevent a late onslaught from the visitors and sealed all three points to force Sunderland to return to Wearside empty handed.
Arsenal: Macey, Johnson, Bola, Bennacer, Sheaf, Bielik, Nelson (Da Silva, 89), Zelalem, Mavididi (Dragomir, 74), Hinds (Nketiah, 74), Willock
Subs not used: Keto, McGuane
Sunderland: Stryjek, T Robson (Casey, 80), Brady, Ledger, J Robson, Greenwood, E Robson, Wright (Molyneux 64), Embleton, Honeyman, Asoro (Maja, 64)
Subs not used: Talbot, Pybus