By Nick Teale
Arsenal's unbeaten start to the Premier Reserve League South came to an end with a 2-0 defeat to Portsmouth at Underhill.
Goals from Thomas Kilbey and Eugen Bopp sealed the Gunners' fate in a game neither team was able to take control of.
Neil Banfield made three changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Wolves. Wojciech Szczesny, Ignasi Miquel and Emmanuel Frimpong all started, with Lukasz Fabianski, Luke Ayling and Samir Nasri dropping out.
For the visitors Antti Niemi - a man with over 300 career first-team appearances to his name - started in goal.
Portsmouth provided the first attack of the game when Bopp game forward on the left. His low cross was dangerous but Paris Cowan-Hall's first touch let him down and Arsenal were able to clear.
The Gunners first attack of note came in the 10th minute when Francis Coquelin turned away from three Portsmouth players to set Neil Banfield's side away. The referee saw the advantage after a late tackle on the midfielder, allowing Craig Eastmond to release Gilles Sunu to charge forward on the left.
The ball was returned to Eastmond on the edge of the area but his shot was charged down by Kilbey.
Arsenal's best chance of the half came seven minutes later. Frimpong played a long cross-field pass to Sunu, who worked his way into the area but angled his shot just wide of the far post.
Just a minute later, Portsmouth were ahead.
Bopp whipped in a deep free-kick from the left and Kilbey rose to head the ball across goal and beyond Szczesny.
Shortly afterwards Sunu showed his threat again.
Picked out by Eastmond, the Frenchman dribbled into the box and aimed a pass into the six-yard box from the byline. However, the ball was cleared away by Michael Williamson before it could reach a red shirt.
The first half ended with a cagey 15 minutes. Neither side could get a firm grip on the game and failed to warm the opposition keeper on a cold night at Barnet.
Early in the second half a succession of corners proved fruitless for Arsenal and in the 54th minute a Kerrea Gilbert cross was headed away from Sunu as he looked to fire home an equaliser.
Ten minutes later Watt broke with pace down the right and threaded the ball through to Sunu. The ever-present striker escaped the Portsmouth backline but drilled his shot straight at Niemi.
Soon after the striker was presented with another opportunity but his prod at a Randall cross ricocheted clear off a Portsmouth defender before a dangerous cross from Gilbert evaded everybody, despite a couple of desperate lunges into the air.
With 18 minutes to play Banfield made a double substitution, bringing on Roarie Deacon and Rhys Murphy for Frimpong and Eastmond.
Portsmouth made their first change two minutes later, Gael Nlundulu making way for Ryan Du Chattelier.
And the switched seemed to work for the visitors. Two minutes after coming on, Du Chattelier set Cowan-Hall free on the right and he fired a shot at Szczesny from 10 yards.
The Polish keeper made the initial save but the ball fell to Bopp 20-yards out. The Portsmouth midfielder looked up and placed his shot into the bottom corner, leaving Szczesny scrambling and Arsenal heading for their first defeat of the season.
Banfield made his final substitution immediately after the goal, with Luke Freeman coming on for Watt.
Sunu troubled the Pompey defence once again in the 83rd minute. His cross was turned away for a corner to be taken by Randall. Gilbert rose to meet it but his header was cleared off the line.
Two minutes later Randall turned on the edge of the area and played the ball forward for Freeman but the substitute could only lift the ball over the bar in what proved to be Arsenal's last significant effort.
The Gunners miss out on going top with the defeat but have an opportunity to avenge the result with a trip to West Ham next week.
- Bartley (C)
- Frimpong 74
- Eastmond 72
- Watt 77
- Freeman 77
- Murphy 74
- Nlundulu 72
- Kilbey Goal!
- T. Smith
- Chattelier 72
- Walshe 72 Goal!