By Richard Clarke
Sol Campbell and Robin van Persie made successful comebacks from injury as Arsenal beat Brighton 1-0 in a friendly played behind-closed-doors at the Club's training ground on Tuesday morning.
The England defender, in his first appearance since he suffered bruising to his ankle on February 1, played the entire 90 minutes while the Dutch striker, out since the same game with a broken toe, featured for 72 minutes.
Arsenal's other Dutch striker, Dennis Bergkamp, got the only goal in the 61st minute. But the home side should have had more against a Brighton side made up of mostly Reserve team players.
Arsenal were dominant from the start. In the fourth minute, Van Persie sent over a low cross from the right and Ryan Smith cracked a sidefoot shot just past the post.
Five minutes later Bergkamp coolly nutmegged his marker and curled a sumptuous pass for Van Persie to collect eight yards out. The Dutchman controlled it wonderfully with his chest but hooked his shot wide when he might have scored.
Joe Gatting, son of former Arsenal midfielder Steve, went close for the visitors soon afterwards and then Chris McPhee sent a header wide. But, in general, the tide was against the Seagulls.
Brighton keeper Richard Martin thrust out a hand to deny Van Persie as the Dutchman danced through then the lively Theo Walcott thumped a shot just wide.
In the 24th minute, the former Southampton winger 'scored' with a crisp long-range drive following Van Persie's clever chest down. Unfortunately the assistant referee had flagged for offside in the build-up to the 'goal'.
Arsenal continued to look dangerous before and beyond half-time but, until they scored, the closest they came was when substitute Anthony Stokes thumped a long-range drive into the chest of the Brighton keeper.
The winning goal arrived just past the hour. Walcott teased his marker on the left of the area and sent over a delightful cross that invited Bergkamp to head home powerfully from close range.
Arsenal set about increasing their lead straight after the goal. Van Persie bamboozled his marker before dragging a shot wide at the near post then Stokes let fly from distance.
In the 67th minute, Van Persie sent Walcott clear but the 16-year-old, who played on both flanks and through the middle during the course of the match, could only shoot tamely at the keeper.
Arsenal's last chance went to Alex Song who cracked an optimistic shot over the bar with six minutes remaining.
Walcott charges forwards
Van Persie evades a challenge
Bergkamp takes on his man
Campbell finds a team-mate
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- Almunia 45
- Traore 60
- Connolly 60
- Smith 40
- Bergkamp 80
- Persie 72
- Trialist 60
- Poom 45
- Garry 60
- Muamba 80
- Bendtner 72
- Stokes 40