Young gun Nketiah announces himself to world

Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah pouncing in the 85th minute to score the first of a brace against Norwich in their fourth-round League Cup tie at the Emirates. The 18-year-old super sub had just come on seconds earlier for his debut, with the Gunners t
Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah pouncing in the 85th minute to score the first of a brace against Norwich in their fourth-round League Cup tie at the Emirates. The 18-year-old super sub had just come on seconds earlier for his debut, with the Gunners trailing 0-1 and the full-time whistle approaching.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has for decades used English football's League Cup competition to give youngsters a taste of first-team experience.

Not many have seized the moment quite like Eddie Nketiah - scoring after just 15 seconds of coming on in the 85th minute and then adding an extra-time match-winner with a picture-book header.

The 18-year-old became the first player born after Wenger became Arsenal manager to score a goal for the club, a statistic that only adds to the sense of surreal wonder the new kid conjured up during the 2-1 fourth-round win over Norwich.

"I am impressed by that to think he was not even conceived when I was already here," said Wenger.

"Life gives a chance to young people. Hopefully he will make a long career at Arsenal football club."

The League Cup may not naturally lend itself to fairy stories. For most of this earnestly contested match, the romance belonged to Norwich as they headed towards full time at the Emirates, with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Josh Murphy.

Wenger fielded the second string and when it was not working, a quick scan of a bench filled with kids did not look too encouraging.

But then came the extraordinary twist in the tale. Nketiah, making his home debut, scuttled on and within seconds, took up position as Arsenal won a corner.

He was in the right place at the right time to pounce, prodding in the equaliser with his first touch from close range for a moment he will always cherish.

The chant of "Eddie! Eddie!" coursed round the stadium, which was extraordinary considering how few of the crowd had probably heard of Nketiah before kick-off.

If the first goal was all about predatory instinct, the second was about nerve and heart.

"I like especially the header he scored," added Wenger. "He is not tall. He has a determined attitude. When the team needs you and you deliver, that is a quality that you don't know until you put the player on."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'Young gun Nketiah announces himself to world'. Print Edition | Subscribe