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Ipswich Town 1-2 Arsenal U21: Blues beaten in EFL Trophy opener as young Gunners battle back

PUBLISHED: 21:43 08 September 2020 | UPDATED: 21:45 08 September 2020

Emyr Huws watches as his shot hits the bar.  
    Picture: Steve Waller       
www.stephenwaller.com

Emyr Huws watches as his shot hits the bar. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

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Ipswich Town let a lead slip as they were beaten 2-1 by Arsenal’s Under 21s in their EFL Trophy opener.

George Lewis celebrates after scoring an equaliser for Arsenal U21s just before the break.
    Picture: Steve Waller       
www.stephenwaller.comGeorge Lewis celebrates after scoring an equaliser for Arsenal U21s just before the break. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Jon Nolan had given the Blues a lead in a first-half they largely controlled at Portman Road but the young Gunners, with an average age of just 18 years and six months, battled back and took victory thanks to strikes from George Lewis and Flo Balogun.

At their best, Ipswich bossed possession against their young opponents and looked to have far more of a cutting edge, as Andre Dozzell and his excellent range of passing drove Paul Lambert’s men forward in the opening period.

But at their worst they struggled to maintain the high tempo with which they began the contest and allowed proceedings to drift, making it hard for them to move up through the gears when in search of a leveller.

They came close to finding one, with Alan Judge having a head saved, substitute Emyr Huws rattling the underside of the bar and James Norwood having one cleared off the line, but it never came as Lambert’s main failed to back up Saturday’s victory over Bristol Rovers.

Arsenal U21 skipper Mark McGuinness and Aaron Drinan contest a high ball.
    Picture: Steve Waller       
www.stephenwaller.comArsenal U21 skipper Mark McGuinness and Aaron Drinan contest a high ball. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

The intent was there, as the Blues looked to emulate the pass-and-move style they’ve worked on during pre-season, but better will be needed when Wigan visit on Sunday to open the League One season.

Lambert was true to his word and initially made just two changes from the side which beat Bristol Rovers on Saturday, with goalkeeper David Cornell and left-back Myles Kenlock coming in for Tomas Holy and Stephen Ward. There was a late third, though, when Corrie Ndaba came in to start as a precaution in place of Toto Nsiala.

The Town boss has challenged his players to ‘keep the shirt’ this season, with the much-discussed rotation policy ditched in favour of a more consistent approach, with the Blues beginning this game in the same manner in which they performed on Saturday, looking to keep the ball and move their opponents around the pitch.

The young visitors had much of the ball in the opening exchanges but, for all their pretty passes and good movement, they weren’t able to move the ball out of their own half as Town won the ball back on a number of occasions.

Jon Nolan opens the scoring for Town. 
    Picture: Steve Waller       
www.stephenwaller.comJon Nolan opens the scoring for Town. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

The hosts’ main source of threat came down the left flank, with Kenlock on the overlap, as one opening won a corner which Luke Woolfenden headed into the arms of Arsenal goalkeeper Tom Smith.

The first real chance on goal came as Freddie Sears won a neat flick-on to free Aaron Drinan but, as the Irishman shaped his body nicely to shoot his effort bounced away off the face of the far post.

Town were warming up, with Dozzell showcasing his range of passing superbly as he moved his side around the pitch, and they were soon ahead.

It wasn’t the prettiest in the end, but was born out of another flowing attacking moving involving a superb, fizzed, cross-field ball from Dozzell, with Judge eventually forcing across the box for Nolan to turn home from close-range.

Aaron Drinan with a first half chance which hit the post. 
    Picture: Steve Waller       
www.stephenwaller.comAaron Drinan with a first half chance which hit the post. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

It was what the Blues deserved having posed by far the greater attacking threat, with Drinan close to an opening for a second but just failing to pop the ball past the on-rushing Smith as he connected with an excellent Teddy Bishop pass.

Flo Balogun had a shot deflected behind off of Bishop in the final minute of the first period and, from the corner which followed, Sears’ air-kick allowed the Gunners to work the ball into space for Lewis to slide past Cornell for the equaliser.

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Town came out for the second half with Gwion Edwards in their ranks, as he replaced Freddie Sears, with the Welshman involved almost immediately as he crossed to the back post for Chambers to head behind.

Portman Road under the lights, as the players warm-up ahead of the match.
    Picture: Steve Waller       
www.stephenwaller.comPortman Road under the lights, as the players warm-up ahead of the match. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Ipswich looked comfortable but, following a superb through-ball from Ben Cottrell, Flo Balogun delayed his shot and beat Cornell with an excellent finish to put the youngsters ahead.

Lambert’s response was to bring on James Norwood, who soon connected with a good Emyr Huws cross to head wide, before Miguel Azeez fired a warning shot over the bar for the young visitors.

Town were leaving gaps at the back as they flew forward in search of a leveller, with Chambers needing to put in a superb sprint and tackle to stop Balogun, before being involved in a move at the other end which ended with Judge heading a shot towards goal which Smith had to save well to his right.

Huws was the next to threaten, curling a beautiful effort from range which came down off the underside of the bar, before Nolan missed a golden chance to equalise as he fluffed his lines when meeting a knock-down from Norwood.

George Lewis celebrates after scoring an equaliser for Arsenal U21s just before the break.
    Picture: Steve Waller       
www.stephenwaller.comGeorge Lewis celebrates after scoring an equaliser for Arsenal U21s just before the break. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Chambers then had a driven effort blocked away before a nasty-looking head injury to Ndaba ended the youngster’s evening early, with Norwood having a close-range effort cleared off the line before the final whistle blew.

Town are back at Portman Road on Sunday to open their League One campaign against Wigan Athletic.

Ipswich Town: Cornell; Chambers, Ndaba, Woolfenden, Kenlock; Dozzell, Nolan, Bishop (Bishop, 52); Judge, Sears (Edwards, 46), Drinan (Norwood, 55)

Subs: Holy, Wilson, Lankester, Hawkins

Arsenal U21: Smith, Alebiosu, Oyegoke, McGuinness, Bola, McEneff (Azeez, 46), Cottrell, Olayinka, Salah (Akinola, 64), Balogun (Cirjan, 73), Lewis

Subs: Hillson, Kirk, Ogungbo


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