Arsenal 0 Sunderland 2
Premier Reserve League
Arsenal Reserves started the New Year with a 2-0 defeat to Sunderland this afternoon. The Gunners conceded both goals in the first half and, although they created several chances in the second, the Black Cats held on to secure victory.
Neil Banfield was able to call upon three members of Arsene Wenger’s first-team squad, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ju Young Park and Ryo sought to gain fitness ahead of the FA Cup tie against Leeds next week, whilst Ignasi Miquel started his first game at this level since October. Thierry Henry had hoped to be involved, but the paperwork required from the New York Red Bulls did not arrive in time for him to play.
subs: Shea, Angha, Ansah, Brislen-Hall, Meade.
Sunderland: Gordon, Laing, Liddle, Reed, Turner, Egan, Lynch, Knott, Tounkara, Cook, R. Noble. Subs: Marrs, Wilson, Deacon, L. Noble, Elliott.
An enterprising Sunderland side almost caught Arsenal out straight from the off when Ryan Noble fired into the side netting after exchanging passes with Craig Lynch.
Arsenal threatened to respond, but, despite enjoying much of the possession, it was the visitors who carved out the more clear-cut chances, with Damian Martinez having to be alert to deny Oumare Tounkara after Sead Hajrovic had been beaten.
Twelve minutes later Tounkara would play a key role in Sunderland taking the lead when he nodded a dangerous free-kick in to the path of Ryan Noble who finished with aplomb. Noble has been in clinical form at Reserve level this season, with Arsenal the latest side to suffer at his expense.
A tame header over from Park after a good cross from Miquel was all that Arsenal could muster as an initial response, before that man Ryan Noble sought out Jordan Cook, who shot wide.
It wasn’t long until Sunderland doubled their advantage, Billy Knott strode forward from midfield, received the ball back off Adam Reed, and finished with a spectacular lobbed effort past Martinez.
Tounkara was proving a considerable danger to Arsenal as he continued to tee up chances for his team-mates, next releasing the ball to Cook who dragged his effort wide again.
Although Arsenal’s frustration continued to grow, Oxlade-Chamberlain was always a dangerous option down the right flank, and provided a cross for Park, but the striker was beaten to the ball by an alert Craig Gordon.
Park then skewed an effort over after good work from Murphy and that, in truth, summed up a disappointing first half from Arsenal’s perspective.
Arsenal, probably spurned on by some stern words from Banfield at the break, started the second period in the ascendancy, with Craig Eastmond steering a shot wide from distance, before Oxlade-Chamberlain saw his free-kick clear the crossbar.
Oxlade-Chamberlain then latched onto a pinpoint cross from Ryo, but Gordon was equal to his quick-fire effort. The Sunderland goalkeeper was again on hand to meet Miquel’s scruffy header after Oxlade-Chamberlain’s delivery.
Zak Ansah replaced Daniel Boateng late on to add some attacking threat, whilst former Gunner Roarie Deacon emerged off the bench for Sunderland, but, despite enjoying the better of the second period, Arsenal ended up on the losing side for the third Reserve game in succession.