By Declan Taylor
Arsenal Reserves were undone by two superb direct free-kicks in Thursday’s North London derby at Underhill.
Tottenham centre-half Gilberto slammed home from 20 yards in the 10th minute before Ryan Mason followed suit just past the hour.
Fran Merida, Sanchez Watt and Kyle Bartley all went close for the Gunners but they found Spurs stopper Ben Alnwick in inspired form.
Arsenal suffered from an overall lack of penetration and their disappointing evening was compounded 13 minutes from time when the lively Jake Livermore added the visitors’ third.
It is now six games without a win, and five without a goal, for Banfield’s youthful second-string, who will face their victors once again in five days time.
The manager’s starting XI was brimming with FA Youth Cup experience. In total, 11 of the Arsenal squad were involved in March’s 3-1 victory at White Hart Lane.
After an encouraging display against Chelsea last time out, Banfield made only one outfield change to his side; Mikael Silvestre made way, presumably with Saturday’s potential first-team duties at Wigan in mind, and Luke Ayling resumed his centre back partnership with Bartley.
It was the second string’s fourth London derby in a row but you could tell this one was extra special. The watching crowd was akin to the one that turned out for Eduardo’s return in December.
And it was the perfect evening for the occasion. Keeper James Shea, who came in for Wojciech Szczesny, even needed a cap to shield his eyes against the bright, low sun.
The home side’s start was equally bright with Amaury Bischoff almost picking out Emmanuel Frimpong with a teasing low cross. However, like in the Youth Cup, Arsenal succumbed to an early goal.
Spurs won a free-kick 20 yards from goal and Gilberto left Shea with no chance with a swerving left-foot strike.
The visitors were really finding their feet while Arsenal struggled for rhythm. Cian Hughton fed Mason who forced a smart stop from Shea then Livermore blasted the follow-up a yard wide.
There were 24 minutes on the clock before the Gunners tested Alnwick. First Merida saw a skidding effort clubbed to safety before Jay Emmanuel-Thomas speared a 25-yard drive into the keeper’s midriff.
Mark Randall, who was emerging as Arsenal’s fulcrum in the midfield, saw a jinking run illegally halted on the edge of the D. But Merida’s free-kick was deflected agonisingly onto the roof of the net.
The Spaniard then provided the half’s last meaningful chance with an inch-perfect through-ball to Watt who glided past his marker but saw a rasping strike acrobatically clawed over the bar.
The interval did nothing to stem Arsenal’s flow and Bartley’s back-post header almost levelled matters within two minutes of the restart. At the other end, Hutton’s bullet-header flashed inches over Shea’s bar.
The Gunners continued to probe and Banfield threw on another two Youth Cup stars in Gilles Sunu and Francis Coquelin. But, once again, Arsenal were undone by a set-piece from an almost identical position in the 68th minute.
This time Gilberto left it to Mason who curled an exquisite effort in off Shea’s left-hand post from 20 yards.
And nine minutes later, it went from bad to worse.
Ayling was caught in possession by Livermore 30 yards from goal and the midfielder confidently slid his effort under the approaching Shea from the edge of the area.
Emmanuel-Thomas pushed into attack as the hosts went in search of a consolation but to no avail.
It was fitting that the game’s final act was a Mason free-kick in the 93rd minute. This time, however, Shea held on.
- Merida Yellow Card
- Randall (C) 83
- Bischoff 63
- Watt 63
- Sunu 63
- Coquelin 63
- Evina 83
Tottenham Hotspur Res
- Gilberto Goal! Yellow Card
- Parrett 59
- Livermore Goal!
- Mason Goal!
- Byrne 59