Nketiah Bags Hattrick as Arsenal thrash Sunderland

Eddie Nketiah following his hattrick (Courtesy Photo)
Written by: 
Olara Moses Jimmy

The English League Cup quarterfinals got underway on Tuesday night, 21st December, 2021 with premier league outfit Arsenal welcoming League One high flyers Sunderland to the Emirates Stadium. A place in the coveted semi-final was at stake. The disparity in divisions was manifest within the first five minutes of the game as Arsenal squandered a flurry of chances with Eddie Nketiah and Florian Balogun heading over the bar and wide respectively. The home team, however, made a breakthrough in the 17th minute as Sunderland goalkeeper Lee Burge could only palm away an in-swinging corner kick into the path of Nketiah who forced it over the line.

The Gunners doubled their advantage ten minutes later. A flowing move found Portuguese full-back Cedric Soares in the opposition final third and his cut-back allowed Ivorian winger Nicholas Pepe to find the top corner on his 100th Gunners appearance by way of a deflection off a Sunderland defender. Sunderland fought back bravely and were soon rewarded. A lapse in concentration by the Arsenal defence allowed Nathan Broadhead to slip through and dink an onrushing Bernd Leno to half the deficit on the half-hour mark.

In the second half, Arsenal showed no signs of putting their foot off the gas and this paid off immediately as a low cross from Nuno Tavares allowed Nketiah to tap in his second in the 49th minute. The Under-21 England International completed his first professional hattrick nine minutes later with an audacious back heel from a Pepe cross. 18-year old Arsenal youngster, Charlie Patino replaced Smith Rowe in the 80th minute, becoming the 886th player to represent the club and made his mark ten minutes later. Granit Xhaka's lofted pass found Pepe in acres of space on the right wing and his well-timed low cross was tucked in by the youngster to close the scoring.

Nketiah was all smiles as he spoke to Arsenal media after the game.

''I am just really grateful to my teammates for the assists, and grateful to be out there, to contribute,'' he said. His hattrick means he has now scored 10 goals in nine League Cup appearances.

''My family were here watching and to share that moment with the supporters is great for me, and the boys have signed (the match ball), so l will keep it and remember it. It is a good moment.''

Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta also heaped praise on his young forward.

''Every time we have played him, he has responded with goals, with assists, with his work-rate and he continues to do so. He is getting better and better every day,'' Arteta told Arsenal Media.

Sunderland may have bowed out with a demoralizing scoreline but more devastating news awaited them at full time. Sunderland coach Lee Johnson cleared the air about Nathan Broadhead's injury in the post-match press conference after the forward hobbled off at half-time.

''It's a disaster,'' said Johnson, who confirmed it was not a recurrence of  the harmstring trouble that kept Broadhead out for the whole of October.

What this means is that the Black Cats will challenge for promotion to the premier league without their lead striker and a host of other key players like Aiden McGeady and Luke O'Nien. Arsenal on the other hand are through to the semi-finals of the League Cup.