Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger heaped praise on unheralded striker Eddie Nketiah after the teenager climbed off the bench to fire the Gunners to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Norwich.
The north Londoners were indebted to Nketiah, who sent the fourth-round tie into extra time by scoring a late leveller with his first touch, cancelling out Josh Murphy’s opener in the process, before heading a winner in extra-time.
Nketiah, who made his first-team debut in the final few seconds of Arsenal’s Europa League clash with BATE Borisov last month, became the first player born after Arsene Wenger was appointed Gunners manager in October 1996 to score for the club.
The 18-year-old, who was released by Chelsea in 2015, has been prolific for the Gunners at age-group level and signed his first professional contract with the club in September 2016. Wenger predicts a bright future.
“I know that he can score goals and that he has character,” said Wenger. “He is not afraid. He can give and go, and once a player has that in his game, they have a chance.
“I’m impressed that he wasn’t even conceived when I was first here. Life gives chances to young people. We hope he has a proud career. Giving chances to young players is part of what this club is about.”
Norwich silenced Emirates Stadium and surged into a 34th-minute lead as James Maddison released Murphy, who escaped Arsenal’s defensive high line, and dinked a nonchalant finished beyond rookie Gunners goalkeeper Matt Macey.
Murphy, striker Nelson Oliveira and midfielder Mario Vrancic all came close to a game-clinching second for the Championship outfit, but Norwich were made to pay for a lack of conviction in front of goal inside the final five minutes.
Within 15 seconds of replacing fellow attacker Reiss Nelson, Nketiah hauled the Gunners level, applying a close-range finish to a Francis Coquelin flick from a corner.
Arsenal’s blushes were spared and momentum now rested with the hosts. Nketiah enhanced his reputation further in the 96th minute, leaping highest to nod home the decisive strike from another Arsenal corner.