Former Gunners continue comebacks as reserves beat Sunderland
Reserve League South: Arsenal 4 Sunderland 2
Arsenal Reserves 4 Sunderland Reserves 2
Two late goals were enough for Arsenal Reserves to see off Sunderland on Tuesday night, having twice surrendered the lead in their last home league game of the season at Underhill.
Jens Lehmann made his second reserve-team appearance since returning to the club last month, while there was also another start for former Gunner Jeremie Aliadiere, who is currently a free agent training with the club again.
Arsenal could have taken the lead inside the first minute, when Luke Freeman intercepted a pass and fed Aliadiere, but the Frenchman was wasteful from 12 yards.
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The Gunners made their early pressure count moments later, when Rory Deacon showed quick feet, before coolly finishing in the bottom corner.
The lead lasted barely two minutes though, as Sunderland’s Matthew Fletcher levelled the score, drilling the ball home from the corner of the box past a helpless Lehmann.
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The veteran German was called into action on a couple of occasions as the half wore on, with Arsenal struggling to recreate the energy with which they started.
As the half progressed, the Gunners usual slick passing faltered and they slumped into a similar malaise that is currently affecting the first team.
One of their more consistent performers, Freeman, was a constant creative menace and he could have given the Gunners a half-time lead when he rose for a header with Sunderland’s Ben Wilson, but the keeper recovered to block Freeman’s lob and Aliadiere was unable to profit from the ensuing scramble.
The second-half was almost a mirror image of the first, as once again both teams started with a great attacking desire and it was Sunderland who went closest in the opening moments.
Craig Lynch’s angled effort managed to elude the reach of Lehmann, but a combination of Ignasi Miquel and Daniel Boateng were on hand to clear the danger.
It was Arsenal who re-took the lead moments late though, after Boateng’s skilful and forceful run to the edge of the area fed Aliadiere, who placed his shot across Wilson into the far corner.
However, Arsenal failed to learn their lesson from the first half and the scores were level just five minutes later.
A counter attack led by Ryan Noble was rewarded when a pinpoint cross from Mitchell found the striker unmarked on the edge of the six yard box and his well placed stooping header left an exposed Lehmann with no chance.
Arsenal once again struggled to find their feet against a Sunderland side full of attacking invention, but they slowly worked their way back into proceedings.
Conor Henderson’s neat footwork found Freeman and his clever back-heeled return ball released him through on goal, but he blazed the glorious chance well over.
Freeman was again the architect 10 minutes later, but the opportunity was squandered, this time by substitute Emmanuel Frimpong.
Henderson’s endeavours were rewarded moments later though, after he managed to dig the ball out of his feet and roll it into the path of Josh Rees, the substitute powered the ball into the far corner.
An excellent display from Freeman was capped with a wonderful, as his first-time effort from the edge of the area nestled in the roof of the net to give the final score an emphatic veneer.
The Gunners’ final game is next Monday at Manchester United, and while they still have a slim chance of winning the Reserve League South title, both West Ham and Chelsea have games in hand that make them favourites.
Arsenal: Lehmann, Hajrovic, Meade, Boateng, Miquel, Ozyakup (Frimpong), Henderson, Deacon (Rees), Murphy (Aneke), Aliadiere, Freeman.