Arsenal suffered their third defeat of the campaign and saw their title hopes dented as Tottenham won the Reserve team derby at Underhill on Monday night.

It was a disappointing night for the Gunners and Ashley Cole in particular. The England international continued his comeback from injury with a first start of the season for the second string, but he was forced off after just seven minutes with a sprained ankle.

Two first-half goals for Spurs proved decisive despite Arturo Lupoli's 18th goal of the season after the break. The result leaves Arsenal seven points adrift of their North London rivals, although they still have a game in hand on the leaders.

Neil Banfield made two changes from the side that drew 0-0 at Chelsea just over a fortnight ago. Armand Traore made way for Cole and Manuel Almunia came in for Mart Poom in goal.

A gleeful cheer from the watching home faithful greeted Cole's first touch as he collected a pass from Alexandre Song in his own half, crossed the half-way line and laid it off to Nicklas Bendtner.

Then almost immediately, Cole went down clutching his left ankle following an innocuous-looking clearance upfield and after receiving treatment, was replaced by Giorgos Efrem.

Sean Kelly switched from central defence to left-back and Fabrice Muamba dropped back from midfield to partner Matthew Connolly in his place. Anthony Stokes moved infield from the left wing and Efrem occupied that flank.

The reshuffle of Banfield's team seemed to disrupt their gameplan and hand the initiative to the visitors. And they took full advantage after just 14 minutes. Johnnie Jackson's corner was headed down by Callum Davenport and Andy Barcham was first to react, slipping the ball past Almunia to break the deadlock.

Tottenham were now in command of proceedings and duly extended their lead 10 minutes later. This time it was Simon Dawkins who supplied a close-range finish to double Tottenham's advantage.

A minute later, Almunia prevented Arsenal going three down with a smart block following a flowing Spurs move involving Jamie Davis, Barcham and then Charlie Daniels.

Bendtner sent a quickly-taken free-kick wide after 40 minutes and that was as close as Arsenal came to a goal in the opening period.

The second half was a different story and, having had time to assess his line-up at the break, Banfield moved Efrem to left-back, Kelly back into the middle, Muamba back into midfield and Stokes wide left.

Lupoli gave a glimpse of what was to come with a low, bobbling effort from 25 yards before a wonderfully disguised pass from Song allowed the striker to coolly clip the ball past the advancing Burch to make it 2-1 with 22 minutes remaining.

From Real Madrid and the Bernabeu to Tottenham reserves and Barnet inside a week, Song was now stamping his authority on proceedings. Lupoli was played in by Muamba after 77 minutes but he dragged his right-foot effort wide of the far post.

Stokes went close late on from another Muanba through ball but could only poke his shot wide and Spurs followed the lead of Coventry and Portsmouth as the only sides to have beaten Banfield's men this term.

 

Ashley Cole gets an early touch

Ashley Cole gets an early touch

Ashley tests his fitness

Ashley tests his fitness

 

Randall and Jackson clash

Randall and Jackson clash

Anthony Stokes looks for an opening

Anthony Stokes looks for an opening

 

Alex Song sprints forward

Alex Song sprints forward

Lupoli nets our goal

Lupoli nets our goal

Arsenal U21

1
Almunia
2
Rodgers
3
Cole 7
4
Connolly
5
Simpson 57
6
Muamba
7
Kelly
8
Song
9
Bendtner
10
Stokes
11
Lupoli

Substitutes

12
Mannone
13
Efrem 7
14
Tracy
15
Randall 57
16
Elston
Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 27 Feb 2006