By Adam Clark
Arsenal Reserves were knocked from the top of the table as their unbeaten start to the season was halted by new leaders Chelsea at Underhill on Monday.
First-half strikes from Ben Sahar and Scott Sinclair either side of a Mark Randall penalty were enough for the visitors as Neil Banfield's side paid the price for relinquishing possession far too frequently.
The encounter opened at a frenetic pace and it was a well-organised Chelsea who made the early advances before creating the first notable opening on 15 minutes. Armand Traore's mis-hit clearance fell straight to Michael Woods, who played a neat one-two with Ben Sahar, only to see his drive across goal comfortably held by Arsenal goalkeeper Mart Poom.
Four minutes later Chelsea midfielder Fabio Ferreira's low cross somehow found its way through to Sahar, who calmly slotted home a crisp first-time shot to give the visitors the advantage.
Midfielder Peggy Lokando had a shot blocked soon after the goal as the home side went in search of an immediate reply, but in their eagerness to foray forward they were nearly caught on the counter.
Ryan Bertrand emerged with the ball as another Gunners attack broke down, and he guided a perfectly-timed ball down the left for Sahar to chase. The striker sprinted goalwards and cut inside Matthew Connolly before teeing up Sinclair who lashed wide of the upright.
On 35 minutes Marc Elston's first-time shot was turned away by the outstretched leg of Nick Hamann, the Chelsea stopper whose next involvement would be to concede an equaliser from the spot.
Worley was adjudged to have brought down the twinkled-toed Jay Simpson after he tumbled in the box and Randall converted expertly. The young keeper guessed correctly but could do little; the ball was already caressing the side of his net.
Agonisingly for Arsenal, parity lasted just two minutes as they were undone once again by the swiftness of Chelsea's attack. This time Woods got to the byline and pulled back across goal for Sinclair to plant a composed strike beyond the helpless Poom.
Maybe the timing of the goal affected the Gunners but they emerged from the interval looking a dejected side. As a result the second half faded into obscurity at times as Chelsea contentedly stuck to their game plan.
Woods sent a header high over the bar on 49 minutes while Elston could manage only similar results at the opposite end soon after. Worley then came close to making amends for the penalty but Poom got down well to gather.
Prolific academy striker Rhys Murphy was introduced to join Elston in attack on 63 minutes, and although the teenager looked lively he suffered a similar lack of service to his strike partner
The youngster, who has hit 11 goals in five academy games, created one opportunity for himself but skewed wide from 18 yards under pressure from Worley.
With five minutes remaining Banfield's side appeared to sense all was not lost and committed more to attack than at any other stage of the second half. It nearly paid off when Elston spotted Hamann off his line with a minute remaining, but his clever lofted effort dropped the wrong side of the bar.
The visitors nearly increased the margin of their victory in the dying seconds but Sinclair, their most threatening player throughout, saw his rasping drive tipped away.
Simpson holds off Younghusband
Flamini outpaces Younghusband
Senderos heads clear
Randall scores from the spot
Simpson and Woods clash
Poom bowls the ball out
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- Garry 63
- Connolly 70
- Randall Goal! Yellow Card
- Lokando 63
- Hoyte 70
- Gibbs 63
- Murphy 63