By Rob Kelly at Kirkby
Arsenal Reserves stretched their unbeaten run to six games with a 1-1 draw against Liverpool on Tuesday afternoon.
Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for the hosts in the sixth minute when he preyed on a loose ball to slot under Damian Martinez.
Benik Afobe struck the post as Arsenal went in search of a equaliser, but they had to wait until the second half to restore parity.
It came from Abou Diaby, who converted from close range after good work from Oguzhan Ozyakup. Chuks Aneke also went close in the second period, but in the end a draw was a fair reflection on a tight game.
Neil Banfield named a far less experienced side than the one that beat West Brom 3-0 last week, although Diaby bolstered the team as he made his return from a hamstring injury.
Afobe came in for his first reserves start of the season up front, while Jernade Meade returned at left back in place of first-teamer Andre Santos. Elsewhere, Danny Boateng was named on the bench for Arsenal after returning from a loan spell at Swindon.
Liverpool meanwhile included Australia international goalkeeper Brad Jones in their side, along with the exciting England Under-17 international Sterling.
Arsenal went into the game on the back of a five-game winning run that had seen them score 15 without concession, but within six minutes they fell behind.
Liverpool had come flying out of the blocks as Sterling and Jesus Fernandez - otherwise known as Suso - had pot shots saved by Martinez, and they soon snatched the lead.
The goal came from a long goal kick from Jones that the Arsenal backline failed to clear, and Sterling pounced on the loose ball and found the bottom corner.
It was one-way traffic at this stage, but gradually Banfield’s side began to settle and in the 14th minute they fashioned their best chance of the first half as Andre Wisdom dawdled on the ball for Liverpool.
Afobe burst in to nick the ball off the defender’s feet and run through on goal, but his shot from inside the box cannoned off the inside of the post and back into Jones’ hands.
With Diaby impressive in midfield, Arsenal became a real threat going forward and Afobe and Nico Yennaris both had half chances during a dominant spell midway through the opening period.
France international Diaby was proving a pivotal figure and he prised open the Liverpool defence in the 38th minute with a slaloming run through the centre of the park, before releasing Afobe. The young striker was through on goal but Jones managed to block his shot from inside the area.
Right on the stroke of half time Zak Ansah went down in obvious pain, and eventually made way on a stretcher with a leg injury.
Arsenal started the second half in confident fashion as Afobe burst clear down the left and set up Ozyakup, but the Turkish midfielder’s shot was held by Jones.
The visitors did not have long to wait for an equaliser though, as Ozyakup turned supplier in the 50th minute. The increasingly influential midfielder got clear on the left byline and rolled the ball in for Diaby to convert from close range.
Banfield’s men were now edging matters and came close to grabbing the lead soon afterwards when Aneke let fly with a half volley from the edge of the area, but Jones palmed his effort away.
That was the last chance of any real note in the match, but Arsenal will be pleased to leave Merseyside with a well-earned point.
- Diaby 61 Goal!
- Aneke 82
- Ansah 45
- Boateng 82
- Rees 45
- Ebecilio 61
- Stephen Sama
- Ryan McLaughlin
- Andre Wisdom
- Emmanuel Gomis Mendy
- Michael Roberts
- Krisztian Adorjan
- Sterling Goal!
- Matthew McGiveron
- Daniel Ward
- Adam Morgan
- Craig Roddan
- Michael Ngoo