Report: Tolaj on target as Albion draw with Gunners

Striker scores his sixth of the season as Premier League 2 game ends 1-1.

By Bruce Talbot • 07 January 2022

By Paul Hazlewood
Lorent Tolaj makes it 1-1

Lorent Tolaj scored his sixth goal of the season as Albion maintained their unbeaten home record in Premier League 2 with a 1-1 draw against Arsenal at the American Express Elite Performance Centre on Friday.

The Swiss striker scored from close range eight minutes before the break after Arsenal had taken an early lead through Mika Biereth.

Albion had other opportunities, particularly in the first half, but they found it harder to break down Arsenal in a much more evenly contested second period.

Albion made six changes to the side beaten by Manchester City last time out with defenders Ben Jackson and Ruairi McConville making their under-23 full debuts and Ayo Tanimowo back after eight months out with injury. Lars Dendoncker partnered Jackson in central defence after returning from his loan spell with St Johnstone.

By Paul Hazlewood
Lorent Tolaj celebrates with his team-mates after scoring his sixth PL2 goal of the season.

Arsenal were looking for the win that would have moved them above the hosts and they went ahead after ten minutes when Joel Ideho’s pass released Biereth and he drilled a low shot past Tom McGill from the right-hand edge of the six-yard box.

It was a blow for Albion but they responded impressively.

Gunners’ keeper Ovie Ejehera saved well to deny Andy Moran and Tolaj, whose close-range header was superbly pushed away.

But Ejehera had no chance when Moran picked out Tolaj with a low left-wing cross in the 37th minute that Tolaj turned home from close range.

By Paul Hazlewood
Cam Peupion gets in his cross against Arsenal.

It was no more than Albion deserved but they found it harder to break Arsenal down in a fairly even second half. Coach Andrew Crofts brought on Todd Miller, Jack Hinchy and Zak Emmerson, who was making his PL2 debut, and Miller looked particularly lively.

He made a direct run at the Arsenal defence moments after coming on and saw a shot blocked and in the closing stages another effort fell at Dendoncker’s feet eight yards out. The defender shot on the turn and appealed for handball but the referee waved play on.

Arsenal responded in the closing stages but neither side could find a winner. 

Albion: McGill, McConville, Jackson, Dendoncker, Peupion, Dicker (Hinchy 71), Spong ©, Tanimowo (Miller 64), Moran, Tolaj, Wilson (Emmerson 85).

Subs not used: Talley, Everitt.