Arsenal secure bonus point in penalty shootout, but a draw is enough to send Gills through in the EFL Trophy.
Trae Coyle scored against his parent club as Gillingham lost to Arsenal's Under 21’s on penalties in the Papa John's Trophy on Tuesday evening, following a 1-1 draw in normal time at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Although Arsenal gained the bonus point by winning the shootout, the point Gillingham gained as a result of the draw was enough to progress from Group B of the southern section as runners-up.
Catalin Carjin gave the visitors the lead as he capitalised on a loose ball and beat Joe Walsh to Zech Medley’s back pass and prodded into the back of the net.
Coyle scored the equaliser ten minutes into the second half as he met a brilliant Alex MacDonald cross and his first-time shot beat Matt Macey.
In the shootout, Arsenal had a 100% record with Carjin scoring the winning penalty after Gills had missed two of their four.
Steve Evans made wholesale changes to the starting eleven that beat Woking in the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday.
Zech Medley and Trae Coyle both started against their parent club, whilst Henry Woods, Matty Willock and Joe Walsh also got a start.
Arsenal named a strong line-up with Calum Chambers, William Saliba and Emile Smith Rowe all starting the game.
It was a fairly even start in Kent, but it was Arsenal who took the lead in the sixth minute through Catalin Cirjan.
Zech Medley tried to chest the ball back to Joe Walsh following a cross from the left side, but the ball ended up being too short and allowed Cirjan to sneak in and poke the ball into the back of the net.
Vadaine Oliver had the Gills first opportunity of the game just a few minutes later, but his effort was blocked by the Arsenal defence. Flo Balogun was first to test Joe Walsh following the opening goal after Alex MacDonald was unable to clear.
The loose ball fell into the striker’s path, but his shot was a comfortable save for the young Gills stopper.
Balogun thought he had doubled the visitors lead in the 38th minute. Luckily for the Gills, he was judged to have been offside.
HALF-TIME: Gillingham 0-1 Arsenal Under 21’s
The Gills had the first chance of the second half through Oliver.
Medley found some space down the left-hand side and put a cross into the box for the striker to attack, however, he could only head wide of the post.
In the 55th minute, Trae Coyle put the Gills back on level terms against the Gunners.
MacDonald’s cross, following some fine midfield play from Matty Willock, was a perfect one which found Coyle at the back post and allowed him to convert past Macey in the visitor's goal with an excellent first-time effort which beat the goalkeeper for pace.
Coyle thought he had his second of the game just moments later. Unfortunately, he was ruled to be offside.
The goal appeared to give Gillingham all the momentum, and Steve Evans introduced Dominic Samuel in the 61st minute.
He was involved right away as Coyle headed the ball down towards him, but his shot went well wide of the goal.
Balogun had a good chance to reclaim the visitor’s lead, but could not find the back of the net after being first to meet Joel Lopez’s cross.
Emile Smith Rowe had Walsh at full stretch with a little over five minutes remaining, but his shot was inches wide of the Gillingham goal.
Coyle almost found a winner in the last minute, but was well denied by Macey.
He decided to shoot from just outside the penalty area with his effort certainly not lacking power, however, it was a comfortable save for the Arsenal goalkeeper.
The game ended level in normal time, meaning that the winner of the bonus point would be decided via a penalty shootout.
FULL-TIME: Gillingham 1-1 Arsenal Under 21’s
Arsenal Under 21’s won the penalty shootout 4-2 having scored all four of their penalties. Trae Coyle and Josh Eccles scored for Gills, but Dominic Samuel and Rob McKenzie were unable to convert theirs seeing Gills pick up one point from the game.
Gillingham: Walsh; Jackson (McKenzie 46’), Drysdale, Maghoma, Medley; MacDonald, Willock (Dempsey 83’), Eccles, Woods, Coyle; Oliver (Samuel 61’)
Unused subs: Bonham, Ogilvie, Tucker, Akinde
Arsenal Under 21’s: Macey, Monlouis, Saliba, Chambers (Laing 46’), Lopez, Akinola, Cirjan, Cottrell, Smith Rowe, Moller, Balogun
Unused subs: Ejeheri, Dinzeyi, Laing, Edwards, Ideho