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Gillingham 1 Arsenal u21s 1 (Arsenal win 4-2 on penalties): Trae Coyle cancels out Catalin Cirjan’s opener in EFL Trophy but the Gunners win shootout


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Trae Coyle was on target for Gillingham against Arsenal’s young guns in an EFL Trophy match that was settled on penalties.

Gillingham conceded early as Catalin Cirjan struck for the Gunners but Coyle hit the equaliser against his parent team and also scored during the shoot-out which was won by the visitors.

Trae Coyle in action for the Gills Picture: Barry Goodwin
Trae Coyle in action for the Gills Picture: Barry Goodwin

The point was enough for the Gills to progress into the second round, as group runners-up behind Arsenal, where they are set to face an away tie to one of the southern area group winners. Their place in the next stage was secured after Ipswich were beaten 2-0 by Crawley later on Tuesday night.

Arsenal named a team packed with potential but also included Calum Chambers, the defender making his first appearance since an ACL injury in December. The Gunners paid Southampton £16m for his services and he lined up alongside William Saliba at centre-half, a player who they signed for a reported £27m. They were picked to mark Gills’ free-transfer summer signing Vadaine Oliver.

Big striker Oliver - who scored the winner against Woking in the weekend FA Cup game - was one of nine changes to the Gills starting XI. Only Declan Drysdale and Ryan Jackson retained their place.

Matty Willock was among those named to start - a player who was once at Arsenal and whose brother Joe is currently in Mikel Arteta’s first team.

Arsenal allowed the Gills to include their loan players Zech Medley and Trae Coyle to play and both started, but it was an early mistake from left-back Medley that led to the opener for Steve Bould’s team.

Medley chested a ball down for keeper Joe Walsh but Romanian midfielder Cirjan nipped in to poke the ball home with just five minutes gone.

Gillingham needed something from the game to progress in the EFL Trophy, starting the midweek game behind Iposwich and Arsenal in the group, but it was more about performances than a result.

The Gills recovered well from the early blow and Coyle - looking lively against his parent team - stung the hands of visiting keeper Matt Macey with a shot from the edge of the box. The hosts got themselves into some good positions but struggled for a decent opening.

Gillingham players congratulate the Arsenal side on their victory Picture: Barry Goodwin
Gillingham players congratulate the Arsenal side on their victory Picture: Barry Goodwin

Cirjan tried his luck twice from the edge of the box at the other end, but both attempts were blocked, while visiting captain Flo Balogun had the ball in the net but was denied by an offside flag.

Oliver headed wide for the Gills early in the second half but they were back on level terms 10 minutes after the restart when Coyle ran onto a ball from MacDonald before firing past Macey.

Coyle had the ball in the net again moments later but the linesman’s flag was up to deny him. It was another close call for the assistant referee on the Gordon Road side.

Balogan put a shot into the side netting for Arsenal as they continued to put together their best moves down Gills’ right flank.

The Gills were hard done by with 15 minutes left after Dominic Samuel was fouled by Saliba when through on goal, racing onto a superbly weighted MacDonald pass. Referee Will Finnie showed leniency and only handed out a yellow card before Coyle put the free-kick from the edge of the box over the bar.

Emile Smith-Rowe went close for Arsenal with a couple of attempts late on, one which went wide and the other into the arms of keeper Walsh.

Coyle’s rising shot was well saved during a frantic finish. The match went to penalties and Arsenal won the shoot-out 4-2 to claim the Trophy bonus point, Cirjan scoring their final goal with a panenka past Walsh.

Gills’ goalscorers were Coyle and Josh Eccles while Samuel had his penalty saved and Robbie McKenzie hit the post. Balogun, Nikolaj Moller, Ben Cotterill and Cirjan all scored for Arsenal.

Gillingham: Walsh, Jackson (McKenzie 46mins), Medley, Maghoma, Drysdale, MacDonald, Willock (Dempsey 83mins), Woods, Eccles, Coyle, Oliver (Samuel 61mins). Subs not used: Bonham, Ogilvie, Tucker, Akinde.

Arsenal: Macey, Monlouis, Saliba, Chambers (Laing 46mins), Lopez, Akinola, Cirjan, Cottrell, Smith Rowe, Moller, Balogun. Subs not used: Ejeheri, Dinzeyi, Edwards, Ideho.

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