By Mo Khan
Arsenal stormed three points clear at the top of the Premier Reserve League South with a 3-0 win at Charlton Athletic last night.
On a chilly evening at Welling United's Park View Ground, Italian Arturo Lupoli raised the temperature with a well-taken treble. At the other end of the pitch, Mart Poom showed his class with a superb second-half penalty save from Charlton's Alex Varney.
Lupoli scored early in each half before completing his hat-trick after 70 minutes and when he was substituted with seven minutes remaining, the diminutive frontman left the field to a rousing reception. He has now scored 11 goals from eight reserve-team starts this term.
The Arsenal Reserve manager, Neil Banfield, welcomed back Lupoli and skipper, Sebastian Larsson after the pair missed the last Reserve fixture away to Fulham. Jay Simpson and Marc Elston dropped to the bench to make way for their return.
In a high-tempo start to the game, both sides rendered possession far too easily and Charlton looked menacing in Arsenal's final third, particularly with the pace of Alistair John and James Walker on the counter-attack.
But before the Addicks had a chance to carve out any meaningful opening of their own, they were trotting back towards the halfway line having become the latest victims of the Lupoli striking phenomenon.
Following a sustained period of pressure in the Charlton penalty area, the ball ran loose to Matthew Connolly 25 yards from goal. The classy centre-half played a first time, drilled pass to the feet of Nicklas Bendtner on the left of the box. The big Dane switched feet and rolled the ball across the six-yard box for Lupoli to break the deadlock.
Swedish midfielder Larsson was having more and more of an influence in proceedings and his partnership with Fabrice Muamba in the middle of the park was showing encouraging signs of development as they dominated the midfield.
But Charlton were not level on points with Arsenal going into this game for being a team who surrendered at 1-0 down. And certainly not at home. The reigning Reserve League South champions almost fashioned an equaliser after 16 minutes. The impressive Rurik Gislason released John on the left flank and when the winger crossed low and hard, the ball was begging to be put away, but Mitchell Murphy rescued the Gunners with a fine clearance at the far post.
Charlton continued to come at Arsenal with gusto and Poom was called into action after 20 minutes, racing from his line to save at the feet of Walker. The Addicks continued to press but Arsenal were defending well with Connolly and Sean Kelly looking dominant in defence and Patrick Cregg, Larsson and Muamba tigerish in midfield.
The second half was just five minutes old when Lupoli doubled Arenal's advantage. The former-Parma starlet ran onto the ball some 25 yards from goal on the right of the Charlton area. With a feint and a drop of the shoulder, Lupoli shifted the ball onto his favoured left foot and found the bottom left-hand corner with a fabulous finish.
Despite the two-goal cushion, Arsenal avoided complacency and this was epitomised by the workrate of the strikers. Lupoli and Bendtner constantly denied the home side time on the ball and pressed high up the pitch.
The Gunners may have added a third sooner than they actually did following great work by Anthony Stokes on the left. The Dublin-born forward, operating on the left-flank, cut inside and played in Bendtner with a well-disguised and equally well-weighted through ball. But Bendtner hesitated and eventually his shot was deflected wide.
Charlton still refused to lie down and won a penalty after 65 minutes. Kelly was the unfortunate man in the Gunners' rearguard as his trip on Varney left the referee with an easy decision in pointing to the spot. Varney himself stepped up and struck a firm penalty towards the bottom right-hand corner. But Poom dived full length, low down to his left and tipped the ball away.
Five minutes later it was 3-0. Again Bendtner provided the assist for his strike partner, showing superb footwork on the right. The former Copenhagen man twisted and turned before squaring the ball for Lupoli to complete his hat-trick from a yard out.
Predictably, judging by the pattern of the game, Charlton came straight back at Arsenal and Varney sent a low drive from 25 yards just past the right upright.
But it was not to be Charlton's night and Arsenal held out to claim their third away London-derby win in succession.
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- To buy official Arsenal pictures visit www.ArsenalPics.com.
- Cregg 75
- Bendtner 85
- Lupoli 80 Goal! Goal! Goal!
- Simpson 75
- Tracy 85
- Elston 80