By Mo Khan
Arturo Lupoli claimed a hat-trick as Arsenal overwhelmed Portsmouth 5-3 at Underhill on Wednesday night.
Nicklas Bendtner also got in on the act with a fine brace as Arsenal finished the game with 10 men following Ryan Smith's late dismissal for violent conduct.
Portsmouth had earlier equalised Lupoli's opener through Jason Pearce, before Neil Banfield's side stormed into a 5-1 lead with some breathtaking football. Portsmouth added some respectability to the scoreline with two late strikes through John Viafara and Collins Mbesuma.
Banfield named a strong line-up with Philippe Senderos coming in to skipper the side and marshal the back-line. Alexandre Song returned in the centre of midfield after missing the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last week due to first-team obligations. Quincy started the match on the left wing with Smith on the right and it was the former of that duo who ran Portsmouth ragged in the early exchanges.
Time and again the Dutch under-21 international picked up the ball on the left wing and ran at pace at the visitors' back line, skipping past Pompey defenders at will - sometimes two or three at a time.
Unfortunately for Quincy, his end product was missing, otherwise Arsenal may have scored five in the first half alone.
Smith was just as lively on the other flank, linking well with Lupoli and Bendtner. And it was Arsenal's prolific little n' large combination up front who combined superbly for the first after just 11 minutes.
Swede Sebastian Larsson found Bendtner on the left of the Pompey penalty area with a glorious 40-yard pass. The tall Danish frontman displayed wonderful control and vision to bring the ball down and roll it square to Lupoli, who hit a first-time strike on his instep into the left-hand corner of the net past a helpless Sander Westerveld.
Portsmouth were level within five minutes and Arsenal's frailties from set-plays, and in particular corners, was to blame. A corner from the right was flicked on at the near post by Marc Wilson before Pearce applied the finish from a yard out. The Gunners were undone by the same corner routine against Palace last week and so will be doubly disappointed to have conceded such a goal.
But the Portsmouth goal seemed to spur Arsenal on rather than deject them and, 10 minutes after the equaliser, the home side regained the lead - and it was that man Lupoli once more.
Again it was Larsson with the ball over the top and as Lupoli chased it, the Portsmouth defence seemed to have it under control, but hesitation on the part of Westerveld allowed Lupoli to get to the ball first and he produced a deft lob which was perfectly executed and gave the Portsmouth goalkeeper no chance.
Arsenal then began to produce the sort of football the club have come to be known for in recent years, with slick passing and movement from the attacking quartet which left Portsmouth chasing shadows.
Viafara was booked for the visitors for a trip on Smith as the pacy winger played a wonderful one-two with Larsson on the halfway line and burst forward.
Arsenal continued to dominate and it was soon 3-1. This time Lupoli returned the favour for Bendtner to score with 33 minutes gone. The former Parma man picked out his strike partner on the left of the box and the big Dane turned inside his man before dispatching a low drive into the bottom left corner, with the aid of a slight deflection.
Banfield's side put the game out of sight for the visitors just seven minutes later as Bendtner grabbed his second of the night. Smith played a perfectly weighted through ball behind the Portsmouth defence and Bendtner wasted no time in bursting clear of the defence, rounding the keeper and rolling the ball into the back of the net. Arsenal were rampant and may have increased their advantage through Smith, but his rasping drive from 25 yards flew wide.
At the start of the second half Quincy and Smith swapped flanks as Arsenal eased up a little.
Portsmouth saw more of the ball in the second period as Arsenal's passing went astray a little. But after 71 minutes, the game was over. Lupoli showed lightning pace on the left flank on an Arsenal counter-attack. With no support around him the Italian had to go it alone and, having beaten two men, Lupoli was upended in the box by a third. The referee signalled for a spot-kick and Lupoli got up to complete his second hat-trick of the season with the minimum of fuss.
Bansfield brought off Bendtner and Song and sent on Patrick Cregg and Fabrice Muamba with 15 minutes left. Portsmouth responded with two changes of their own and it paid dividends for the south coast outfit with two goals in the final four minutes.
First Viafara struck a sweet right-foot shot into the far corner to make it 5-2, before Mbesuma completed the night's scoring with Pompey's third a minute from time.
There was still time for one last piece of action as Smith was dismissed for a late challenge on Pearce right in front of the dug-outs. It seemed a little harsh but the referee deemed it violent conduct and produced a straight red.
But the Arsenal side and Smith in particular will have been pleased with the result, another five goals, another three points and plenty of talking points.
Lupoli nets his second goal
Arturo completes his hat-trick
- To buy official Arsenal pictures visit www.ArsenalPics.com.
- Song 75
- Smith Red Card
- Lupoli Goal! Goal! Goal!
- Bendtner 75 Goal! Goal!
- Muamba 75
- Cregg 75