By Mo Khan
Nicklas Bendtner continued his recent hot streak in front of goal to earn Arsenal a point against Watford at Underhill on Monday night.
The 18-year-old forward struck 11 minutes from time to take his season's tally to 14 in Reserve League South and 21 in all competitions.
The former Copenhagen man has now scored four times in his last five starts for Neil Banfield's side and his strike against the Hornets follows a two-goal display as a second-half substitute for Steve Bould's Under-18 outfit at Aston Villa on Saturday.
Banfield made just one change to his starting line-up from last week's 2-2 draw with Norwich City's second string. Midfielder Jay Simpson was drafted in as Sean Kelly dropped out. That change saw regular right full back, Kerrea Gilbert, move infield to partner Matthew Connolly at the heart of the defence.
Intriguingly, Banfield chose to employ a right-sided midfielder at left back in a move similar to Mathieu Flamini's recent transition for Arsène Wenger's first team. The man chosen to emulate Flamini was 16-year-old Giorgos Efrem - and the Cypriot youth international didn't let anybody down with an energetic display which left the gathered Arsenal faithful gasping at his ball control and singing his name in admiration.
Arsenal had the better of the opening exchanges against Watford but had to wait until the 17th minute for their first half-chance to break the deadlock.
Ryan Smith floated a long ball from the left-back position towards Anthony Stokes up front. The Irish youth international trapped the ball magnificently with his chest before pulling the trigger with his left foot, all in one swift movement. However, he slightly miscued his attempted volley and the ball flew just over the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Watford's Theo Robinson raced through on goal only to fire wildly wide. The same player then struck a post with a header as the visitors began to get a grip of the game.
Just before the half-hour mark, Efrem did superbly to intercept the ball and immediately had Arsenal moving forward with a slick pass to Bendtner. He in turn exchanged passes with Sebastian Larsson before firing tamely at Scott Loach in the Hornets' goal.
Moments later, the Gunners fashioned another flowing move and again Bendtner was at the end of it. This time Larsson drilled a pass to Bendtner who somehow managed to get a foot to it and guide it into the path of the on-rushing Smith. The tricky winger ghosted past one man as he took the ball in his stride before slipping Bendtner in on goal. But the Dane, having opened himself up, curled the ball just past the far post.
The second half was a quieter affair with Smith going closest with a long-range effort before Watford took the lead, not so much against the run of play, rather against the run of the game. Alessandro Campana found himself given time to shoot at the edge of the Arsenal penalty area after 74 minutes and he found the bottom corner with a low angled drive.
Inevitably, the home side were spurred into action and took just five minutes to restore parity.
Larsson found Bendtner in a central position just outside the area and the striker took the pass magnificently in his stride, burst past his marker and found the bottom corner with a low, bobbling effort.
An Arsenal onslaught seemed likely but did not materialise and Watford may even have won it late on when Robinson ran through on goal, but the striker blazed high and wide.
Subscribers to Arsenal TV Online will be able to enjoy extended video highlights of the encounter later today.
Anthony Stokes challenges for the ball
Stokes' marker gets to grips with him
Efrem charges through
Bendtner nets our equaliser
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- Gilbert 66
- Simpson 66
- Parisio 66
- Tracy 66