Portsmouth 2 (Pitman 10, Green 83) Arsenal 1 (Saka 66)
Arsenal U21s’ inaugural involvement in the Checkatrade Trophy is over after a late Andre Green goal saw Freddie Ljungberg’s side fall to a 2-1 defeat away to Portsmouth.
The hosts, who are flying in League One, took the lead courtesy of Brett Pitman in the 10th minute but Arsenal managed to pull level in the second half courtesy of the terrific talent that is Bukayo Saka.
Green proceeded to score the winner, however, with Arsenal suffering further frustrating when Laurent Koscielny, making the second appearance of his comeback, had to be substituted in the 85th minute after suffering a knock.
Arsenal were without Emile Smith Rowe, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah, while Robbie Burton was missing through suspension and Julio Pleguezuelo remains injured.
Zech Medley, Charlie Gilmour and Saka, who all made their first-team debuts last week, started the game.
Subs: Coyle (for Omole, 65), Tormey (for Koscielny, 85). Not used: Hein, Bola, Thompson, Olowu, Zelalem.
Arsenal started positively, with Saka having an effort saved but Portsmouth soon started to take control of the game.
Daniel Ballard has developed a reputation for making goalline clearances, and he performed such an action again in the eighth minute to keep Portsmouth at bay.
Deyan Iliev then reacted well to make a save, but the Macedonian goalkeeper could do nothing to keep out Pitman’s effort.
Louis Dennis headed wide as Portsmouth sought to extend their lead, and Adam May then hit the post from distance with a ferocious strike.
Dennis caused numerous problems for the Arsenal defence in the closing stages of the first half, and in truth the young Gunners were fortunate to go into the break with just a one-goal deficit.
Arsenal gradually started to improve in the second half, with Gilmour shooting over from distance and Trae Coyle then entered the fray in place of Tobi Omole, who had just been booked.
May hit the crossbar for Portsmouth but Saka then equalised for Arsenal with a well-struck effort.
Tyreece John-Jules subsequently had an attempt closed down as Arsenal sought to take the lead, although they had to be wary of the considerable threat that Portsmouth were still providing.
Dennis came close to scoring for Portsmouth, with Iliev then thwarting Green as he saved with his legs.
In the 83rd minute Portsmouth were back in front, with Green finishing well following an impressive move.
Koscielny had to be withdrawn shortly afterwards, with Nathan Tormey entering the fray for a rare appearance.
Despite three minutes of added time, Arsenal were unable to get a second goal and were knocked out of the competition.
Had the likes of Smith Rowe, Nketiah and Willock been available, the outcome may have been rather different, but playing in the Checkatrade Trophy has still been a beneficial experience for Arsenal’s youngsters in terms of enabling them to test themselves against senior opponents.