By Giuseppe Muro at Underhill
Arsenal got their Reserve League title push back on track with a 2-1 win over Liverpool thanks to Luke Freeman’s injury-time header on Wednesday.
Freeman’s first-half strike appeared to have given the second string a slender 1-0 victory before Thomas Ince’s 89th-minute equaliser seemingly snatched the points away in similar fashion to last week's defeat at Newcastle.
But the diminutive Arsenal striker popped up with the winner deep into stoppage time when he met Conor Henderson’s corner to expertly guide the ball home and send Underhill into raptures.
After last-minute heartache at St. James’ Park last time out, this was just the tonic for Neil Banfield and his side who go into their final trio of fixtures firmly in the hunt for the title.
Arsenal went into this game without a win since January, that’s five games without success. But you wouldn’t have known it from the way they started.
Roarie Deacon, returning from injury and a last-minute replacement for Chuks Aneke, was on the ball at every opportunity as the boys in red knocked it about confidently in front of a packed crowd.
Both sides were organised defensively meaning chances were few and few between in the opening stages. James Shea saved easily from Nikola Saric and Rhys Murphy miscontrolled when Deacon slipped him in through the middle.
But it didn’t take long for the frontman to get another opportunity - this time he flashed a left-footed effort inches wide of the far post.
Arsenal were on top and they went ahead shortly after the half-hour mark through Freeman’s blockbuster.
Two Liverpool defender got in each others' way 30 yards out and Freeman ponced. He beat one man before shifting the ball onto his right foot and unleashing a rocket into the top-right corner.
Martin Hansen flung out a left hand in desperation but the ball hit the net before he could get anywhere near it.
Against West Ham and Newcastle, Arsenal had controlled large spells without capitalising on their advantage. But this time they had their lead, much to the delight of their manager.
Deacon’s low drive from outside the area forced Hansen, the busier of the two keepers, into another save minutes later.
Then the late inclusion in the Arsenal team bamboozled Andre Wisdon into bringing him down inside the area and Arsenal had a golden chance to go two goals ahead. One they spurned when Murphy thundered his penalty against the right-hand post.
Arsenal went into the break ahead but had Shea to thank for preserving that advantage in the early stages of the second half.
Firstly, he saved well from Ince, son of former England captain Paul, and then smothered at the feet of Toni Brtio e Silva at the back post as the away side pushed for an equaliser.
Shea was again called into action when Ince, who impressed throughout, fired powerfully at the legs of the goalkeeper.
Liverpool were starting to see more of the ball but Arsenal were defending superbly at the back, something that Banfield had asked of his players after the defeat in the North-East.
But, just a minute from time, Ince pounced when the ball squirmed away from the unfortunate Shea to leave Liverpool’s stand-out performer with the easiest of finishes into an empty net.
After last week’s disappointment, Arsenal could quite easily have let their heads drop. That never looked like happening.
In the third of the three allotted minutes given by the fourth official, Henderson’s corner was glanced home by Freeman, arguably the smallest man on the pitch.
He looked just as surprised as his manager.
- Henderson Yellow Card
- Miquel Yellow Card
- Ozyakup Yellow Card
- Freeman Goal! Goal!
- Wisdom 60
- Saric 81
- Ince Goal!
- Ngoo 81
- Poor 60