Two late goals from teen Eddie Nketiah rescue Arsenal from cup upset vs. Norwich
LONDON -- Three points from the Emirates on Arsenal's 2-1 win over Norwich City in the Carabao Cup.
1. Nketiah the unlikely hero for Arsenal
Eddie Nketiah certainly knows how to make an entrance.
The 18-year-old striker spared Arsenal's blushes by scoring his first two goals for the club after coming on as a substitute to secure a comeback victory over an impressive Norwich side on Tuesday. This has long been used as a competition for Arsenal's teenagers under Arsene Wenger, but few have had the immediate impact Nketiah produced at the Emirates in just his second appearance.
With the hosts trailing from Josh Murphy's first-half goal and struggling badly to create chances, Nketiah scored with his first touch to level the game in the 85th minute -- and then headed in a second in extra-time. Both goals came from corners. The first was a simple tap-in after the ball was flicked on into Nketiah's path, while he rose high to head in the second in the 96th.
Soon chants of "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" were echoing around the Emirates as the England youth international underlined his reputation as the most natural finisher to come out of the Arsenal academy in years.
Based solely on their amount of possession, it was a well-deserved win for Arsenal. But Norwich will rue a missed opportunity here as they nearly pulled off a perfect smash-and-grab.
After playing with nine men behind the ball for most of the opening half hour, Murphy capitalised on Norwich's first clear chance on goal by calmly chipping debutante goalkeeper Matt Macey in the 34th minute.
It was classic Arsenal: dominating the game but creating little, and then conceding from a quick counter-attack after losing the ball in midfield.
Instead of rousing Arsenal, the goal only caused Norwich to play with more ambition. Macey had to deny the visitors a second minutes later with a diving one-handed save on Nelson Oliveira's curling shot from the edge of the area.
The second half followed a familiar script, with the Canaries neutralising Arsenal's attacking play and constantly threatening on the counter.
Arsenal were even lucky not to be down to 10 men in the 56th when Oliveira outpaced Mohamed Elneny and the Egyptian pulled him to the ground. Oliveira would have been clear on goal, but referee Andy Madley didn't deem it a clear goalscoring opportunity and settled for a yellow card.
Murphy and Oliveira then both missed chances to score again from counter-attacks as Norwich constantly looked closer to a second goal than Arsenal did to an equaliser. That was, until Nketiah entered the fray.
2. The kids are all right
Add Nketiah to the long list of Arsenal teenagers to make a name for themselves in this competition.
There was something fitting about having an academy product decide this game, despite Wenger fielding an unusually strong line-p for this competition. The League Cup, as it has traditionally been known, has always been about getting a glimpse of the future for Arsenal fans. Judging by the quality of Nketiah and 17-year-old Reiss Nelson -- the only academy player to start the game for the Gunners -- the future remains bright.
Nelson has been widely seen as Arsenal's next breakout star and seems to be growing more comfortable with that status with every game he plays. In his fourth start, he was Arsenal's most creative outlet for much of the game and caused constant problems for Norwich down the right flank.
Whether it was making raids down the flank with quick dribbles, picking out Theo Walcott's run with a delicate chip or dribbling past three defenders to break into the area, Nelson was the lone bright spot for the Gunners for much of the game. That's despite playing alongside midfielders Jack Wilshere, Alex Iwobi and Francis Coquelin, three previous academy products who are now established first-team regulars.
Nelson has yet to add goals to his game for the first team, but perhaps he can just rely on Nketiah for those.
3. Norwich shows tactical flexibility
Norwich manager Daniel Farke has brought a Wenger-like philosophy of attacking football to the Canaries since taking over the club this summer. He smartly abandoned those tactics here, though, focusing instead on frustrating Arsenal's patient build-up play and waiting for chances to counter.
It nearly worked to perfection. While goalkeeper Angus Gunn had to make a stellar one-handed reflex save to deny Rob Holding's header from a corner early in the first half, Arsenal didn't create a single clear-cut scoring chance from open play until Nketiah popped up for the equaliser.
Murphy, meanwhile, showed again why Norwich could struggle to hold on to him for much longer. His run to meet a through-ball from James Maddison was perfectly timed and he never flinched when coming one-on-one with the 6'6" Macey -- opting to calmly chip it past the towering keeper.
He then showed his ability to create by setting up Oliveira's chance minutes later and his pace in the second half with a raid down the wing to send in a dangerous low cross Arsenal just managed to clear.
Murphy's twin brother Jacob already signed for Newcastle in the summer, and there will be other Premier League clubs taking notice of his performance at the Emirates. Although if Norwich keep playing like this, Murphy may not need to switch clubs to play in the Premier League next season.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.