Arsenal Reserves suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of North London rivals Spurs at Underhill this evening.
In a fiercely competitive game, both sides had their chances but it was the visitors who made the most of theirs and that, ultimately, swung the game in their favour.
The first two goals were remarkably similar in style and execution and both were free-kicks from just outside the box. The first, on 10 minutes, was an expertly-struck set-piece from Gilberto which left James Shea standing and then Ryan Mason repeated the feat after the break. Jake Livermore capitalised on an uncharacteristic error from Luke Ayling late on to add undeserved gloss to the victory.
Neil Banfield made just two changes from the side which kept a clean sheet against Chelsea and it was the two players who came in, Shea and Ayling for Szczesny and Silvestre, who were at fault for the goals which the Gunners conceded.
A tense start culminated in a clumsy foul on the edge of the area and Gilberto took full advantage, curling an expert free-kick past Shea.
The Islington-born stopper could do nothing about that effort but showed his commitment to the cause with a fine stop with his legs just minutes later.
At the other end, Fran Mérida, Arsenal’s shining light, hit the home side’s first shot but it was straight at the impregnable Ben Alnwick.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas then tried his luck but again Arsenal were nullified.
Arsenal were beginning to enjoy more possession but couldn’t turn it into goals. Mérida had a free-kick deflected over the bar and Bischoff came close with an instinctive chip.
The Gunners came close to levelling just before the break, but Sanchez Watt couldn’t convert after being put through expertly by Mérida.
Arsenal’s players were sent out early for the second-half after a rollicking from Banfield and the new period saw Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and the innefective Randall switch wings.
Arsenal continued where they left off, creating chance after chance without reward. Kyle Bartley saw his header deflected wide and then Emmanuel-Thomas came close from the resulting corner.
Tottenham’s sprinkling of first-team experience was clearly swinging the game in their favour and Alan Hutton came close with a header.
Arsenal had further chances, with Sanchez Watt trying and failing to replicate Emmanuel Adebayor’s superb scissor kick against Villarreal after being put through by Emmanuel-Thomas and the lone frontman then had a shot tipped over by Alnwick.
It proved to be his last meaningful contribution to the game as, on 63 minutes, he was taken off as part of a double substitution which also saw Amaury Bischoff withdrawn and French duo Gilles Sunu and Francis Coquelin enter the fray.
If Arsenal had hoped that the substitutes would help them find a way back into the game, it worked reversely.
Spurs doubled their lead from a Ryan Mason free-kick which, apart from being at the other end of the field, had more than a touch of déjà vu about it.
James Shea hadn’t organised his wall properly and recieved a torrent of verbal abuse from Emmanuel-Thomas after the ball had flown past him. The ‘keeper stood and shook his head at the lanky midfielder who replied by shouting ‘what?’ which could be heard above the mutterings of the noisy Underhill crowd.
Arsenal’s misery was compounded 13 minutes from time when Jake Livermore capitalised on a Luke Ayling effort to score. Again Shea was helpless and again Emmanuel-Thomas was livid.
So, a night to forget for Arsenal. However, if it is revenge which they seek, and they should do, then they won’t have to wait too long, these sides do battle again in the reverse fixture next Tuesday.
PLAYER RATINGS: (average: 5.6)
Made a few good saves to keep Arsenal in it at 1-0 but suffered a massive blow to his confidence after the second free-kick flew past him.
One or two mistakes but strong and robust in the challenge and deserves his professional contract.
A mixed game with some superb crucnching challenges but a couple of mistakes as well.
Was solid up until the third goal, for which he paid for a dreadful moment of hesitation.
Caught out a couple of times defensively but got forward well in the first-half.
Clearly a talented player but is wasted out on the right and misplaced some passes.
Never ducked out of a challenge and won most of them with ease.
Fran Mérida-8-JB’S MAN OF THE MATCH
Arsenal’s shining light. A true genius with the ball at his feet, it was just a shame some his passes weren’t put to good use.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas- 6
Tried to inspire his team but ultimately ended up demoralising them. Involved in some flowing passing moves.
A poor performance and his attitude is a serious concern. Made one or two decent passes but wasn’t good enough.
Same old story. Worked hard up front but lacked that killer instinct in front of goal.
Gilles Sunu-6(for Sanchez Watt, 63)
Added pace and trickery to the attack.
Francis Coquelin-5(for Amaury Bischoff, 63)
Didn’t really influence the game.
Cedric Evina-5 (for Mark Randall,83)
Didn’t have enough time. Interesting to see him on the right-wing.