Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck made his return from a 10-month injury layoff on Friday as the Gunners' under-21s stormed to a 4-1 victory against Brighton and Hove Albion.
The England international completed 60 minutes before being withdrawn in the second half, with manager Arsene Wenger likely to be closely monitoring his comeback progress.
Welbeck's return will have delighted fans, but emerging starlet Reiss Nelson was the man of the moment against the Seagulls, scoring the opener before setting up two more goals inside 20 minutes.
Three points saw the north Londoners move to the summit of the Under-21 Premier League Division Two with a game in hand over second-place Derby County, who are now one point behind Andries Jonker's leaders.
In the day's later game, there was late drama, as Fulham and then West Brom scored in a frantic final few minutes to draw 1-1. It's a result which leaves the former languishing in midtable, while the Baggies cut the gap to the Gunners to five points at the summit of the Division Two standings.
Read on for a recap of Friday's results and a look at the updated Under-21 Premier League standings.
|Friday's Under-21 Premier League Results|
|Arsenal||4-1||Brighton and Hove Albion|
|Fulham||0-0||West Bromwich Albion|
|Under-21 Premier League Division 2 Standings|
|2||Derby County U21||15||9||2||4||32||19||+13||29|
|3||Aston Villa U21||16||8||4||4||19||20||-1||28|
|4||West Bromwich …||15||6||7||2||18||12||+6||24|
|5||West Ham Unite…||16||7||3||6||27||26||+1||24|
|6||Stoke City U21||16||7||1||8||17||18||-1||22|
|8||Swansea City U21||12||5||2||5||18||12||+6||17|
|12||Brighton & Hov…||16||1||5||10||9||29||-20||8|
Arsenal Cruise Past Brighton to Table Summit
All eyes were on Welbeck at London Colney in Hertfordshire as the 25-year-old lined up in attack for the under-21s to make his first Arsenal appearance since April 26, 2015.
Despite Friday's outing being a reserve game, the pressure on Arsenal's returning forward was eased when 16-year-old Nelson took advantage of a defensive error from the visitors to fire his side ahead after just two minutes.
It was Nelson who helped the north Londoners increase their lead, too, as he assisted goals for Krystian Bielik and Stephy Mavididi in the 14th and 17th minutes, respectively.
Featuring against players far more experienced than him, Nelson appears to be an academy talent worth getting excited about, with several fan accounts giving the teenager rave reviews for his display:
Nice to see Reiss Nelson having a stormer today. Unreal talent. Welbeck off after 60 minutes.2/5/2016, 2:27:09 PM
Ismael Bennacer curled home a free-kick to cap off an impressive performance, but Brighton's James Tilley saw to it that the clean sheet eluded the Gunners, slotting in an 85th-minute consolation.
Wenger was quoted by fan Samuel Jay C as saying Welbeck will need "two or three games" back before he's contending for first-team football.
In the day's later game, an otherwise attritional game burst into life in the final few minutes, as West Brom's stoppage time equaliser rescued a draw against Fulham.
As we can see courtesy of Fulham's official Twitter feed, the senior team manager Slavisa Jokanovic was on hand to watch the action:
Fulham Football Club @FulhamFC
Slaviša Jokanović in the stands at Motspur Park this evening #FFC https://t.co/4v0u86xfKf2/5/2016, 7:10:12 PM
West Brom have been pretty impressive in this division overall this term, but with no win in three the Baggies needed to get a positive result here. Fulham, by contrast have been struggling, having sampled two consecutive defeats coming into this one.
At half-time the game was deadlocked, but as the Baggies' Twitter feed noted, there were openings for both sides:
West Bromwich Albion @WBA
HT. @FulhamFC Under-21s 0 Albion Under-21s 0 No goals in the first 45 minutes down in London, but both sides have had chances #BU21PL2/5/2016, 7:51:56 PM
The second half was much more of a grind, with neither side really able to carve out clear opportunities. However, in the 88th minute that all changed, as Fulham netted what seemed set to be a late winner.
It was George Williams that was on hand to give the hosts a lead at Motspur Park, as he thumped home a finish from the left-hand side of the box. West Brom's youngsters were dejected, but to their credit, with a couple of minutes and stoppage time still to play, they kept at it.
Remarkably, they got their reward with one of the final touches of the game. It was Joe Ward who was most alert in the area in the 93rd minute, as he nodded home the most dramatic of late equalisers.
The goal snatched away what would have been a critical win for Fulham, who are now marooned in seventh spot with seemingly little chance of a title win. West Brom may not have ended their winless run here, but this late, late show will give them momentum heading into their next clash and keep them looking up towards the top of the table.
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