By Mo Khan
Arsenal's 13-game unbeaten run came to an end as they lost 3-2 at Portsmouth on Tuesday night, despite a debut goal from January signing Theo Walcott.
Neil Banfield's men went into the game at Havant and Waterlooville's West Leigh Park ground looking for their third straight away win and were boosted by 16-year-old Walcott's inclusion from the start.
The Gunners took the lead after 17 minutes when Pompey defender Brian Priske, under pressure from Nicklas Bendtner, turned the ball into his own net from Armand Traore's low cross. But Vincent Pericard drew the home side level from close range seven minutes later before Marc Wilson's header put them 2-1 up seven minutes after the break.
Walcott looked to have rescued the game for Banfield's men with 17 minutes remaining but Wilson's second of the game after 78 minutes settled the encounter.
Banfield had made four changes from the side that beat Norwich 5-0 last time out; Mart Poom replaced Vito Mannone in goal and Matthew Connolly made a return from injury to take the captain's armband as Gavin Hoyte dropped to the bench. Walcott replaced Giorgos Efrem on the right wing and Alex Song returned in central midfield as Sebastian Larsson dropped out.
The hosts named a strong line-up including former Liverpool stars Sander Westerveld and Salif Diao and midfielder Franck Songo'o, a former Barcelona player.
Arsenal started the game well and right-back Paul Rodgers forced the first corner of the match after just three minutes. Connolly nearly marked his return with a goal but saw his header sail over from Mitchell Murphy's inswinging delivery.
Walcott gave an early glimpse of his precocious talent by beating two defenders on the right before slipping in Arturo Lupoli, but a late flag denied him.
At the other end, Poom came off his line to smother the ball at the feet of the livewire Ognjen Koroman.
Arsenal thought they had taken the lead after 15 minutes when Lupoli found the bottom corner from Song's slide-rule pass but again, the offside flag came to Pompey's rescue.
But just two minutes later, Arsenal did take the lead. Former Monaco man Traore made a wonderful run on the left flank, got to the byline and sent in a cross towards Bendtner at the near post. Priske inadvertently touched it past Westerveld to break the deadlock.
Portsmouth came back strongly and drew level when Koroman's low shot was only partially saved by the diving Poom and Pericard was on hand to tap into an empty net from a yard out.
Songo'o rattled the crossbar with a venomous strike from 25 yards and, as the first half drew to a close, Portsmouth were on top. They carried that momentum into the second period and took the lead when Wilson's header beat Poom from 10 yards.
Walcott had been pushed the middle by this point, to play in attack alongside Lupoli and the switch paid dividends when Shane Tracy's cross fell to the former Southampton star and, in a flash, he pounced to fire a first-time, right-foot half volley into the corner.
But Portsmouth, and Wilson, were not ready to be upstaged and he scored his second of the night, with a powerful strike, through a crowd of players with 12 minutes remaining.
An early tussle for the ball
Walcott drives forward
Walcott scores his first goal
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- Walcott Goal!