By Joe Brewin at London Colney
Arsenal Reserves returned to winning ways with a comfortable two-goal victory over Fulham at London Colney.
Oghuzan Ozyakup ensured a dream start for Neil Banfield’s side with a goal inside three minutes, before Sanchez Watt lashed home a second at the beginning of the second half.
In a controlled display, the three points were no less than Arsenal deserved.
Banfield was able to include a handful of first-team squad members in his side to face the Cottagers, with Emmanuel Frimpong and Ryo given starts.
Fulham began with a youthful line-up but, make no mistake, they were a threat. This was a team sitting second in the Reserve League South table prior to kick-off.
Arsenal could not have asked for a better start. Just three minutes into the match they took the lead. Ozyakup picked up the ball from Watt's neat pass before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli to give the hosts an early advantage.
The Dutchman’s goal set the tone for the remainder of a dominant half for Banfield’s side.
Both goalkeepers remained relatively untested throughout the first period - but the young Gunners did have their opportunities for goal No 2.
Ryo and Watt combined on numerous occasions to try and force a second, but the latter was denied firstly by a superb sliding challenge and then by his own wayward strike over the bar.
Watt was always a lively threat for the Fulham backline, however, and his partnership with Luke Freeman forced the visitors to work hard.
For Fulham it was Alexander Kacaniklic who looked the man most likely to cause problems for Arsenal - but the former Liverpool trainee could not force Vito Mannone into action inside the opening period.
Arsenal were dealt a blow in the 34th minute when Ryo was forced off with an injury. Zak Ansah came on in his place.
The Cottagers’ best opportunity of the half arrived when Buomesca Tue Na Bangna was played through on goal, forcing Mannone into a brilliant sliding challenge to deny the Portuguese midfielder.
But despite that minor scare the Gunners' second string continued to hold their own and ultimately looked good value for their lead at the break.
Arsenal started the second half as they did the first - with a goal.
Tue Na Bangna could have levelled the tie for Fulham in the first minute of the half, but he slid his effort narrowly wide of the far post. And Fulham were made to pay.
Brilliant build-up from Freeman saw the striker skip past two defenders before getting his cross into the box. Ronny Minkwitz’s attempted clearance only found Watt, who played a one-two with Ozyakup before lashing home.
It was the striker’s sixth of the season, continuing his fine run of goalscoring form for the Arsenal second string. The former Leeds loanee signed a new deal with the Club last month - and that is exactly why.
Banfield’s men now had a cushion to work with.
Ozyakup was pulling the strings in midfield for Arsenal, demonstrating once more just why Arsène Wenger was prepared to involve him in the first team’s recent Carling Cup triumphs.
Arsenal continued to control play throughout the second half, and Mannone was left a bystander much of the time.
Thomas Donegan and Ozyakup exchanged tame efforts at both ends as the match reached its conclusion, the latter coming closest to force Bettinelli into action.
As it was, Banfield’s youngsters held on for a deserved victory. Arsenal are back, the disappointing defeat at The Hawthorns two weeks ago now well and truly behind them.
Victory for the young Gunners sends them above Fulham in the Reserve League South, with a game in hand. Next up? A home match against Norwich in a week’s time.
- Yennaris 65
- Miyaichi 34
- Ozyakup 76 Goal!
- Watt Goal!
- Bihmoutine 65
- Ansah 34
- Roberts 76
- Pritchard 46
- Bangna 63
- Minkwitz 46
- Banya 63