By Joe Brewin at London Colney
Arsenal Reserves continued their winning run with a comfortable 4-2 victory over Norwich at London Colney on Tuesday.
Ouzhan Ozyakup’s first-half brace gave Neil Banfield’s side the perfect start inside the first 10 minutes before Sanchez Watt added a third.
Matthew Ball pulled one back from the penalty spot on the stroke of half time but Chuks Aneke made the points safe with his second-half strike.
Daniel Boateng was given his marching orders with 10 minutes remaining following an altercation but it mattered little as the young Gunners marched on to victory despite George Francomb's stoppage-time spot-kick.
Manuel Almunia saw his first action since returning from a loan spell at West Ham last month while Emmanuel Frimpong started for the second week running at the heart of midfield alongside Ozyakup.
As in that game Banfield’s side started on the goal trail early through Ozyakup. Watt stole possession halfway inside the Norwich half before driving forward and picking out the midfielder who made no mistake with a cool finish.
Just three minutes later it was 2-0 with an almost carbon copy of the first. Watt was provider once more, laying the ball off for Ozyakup to fire home.
Arsenal had not been as dominant as the scoreline suggested but, nonetheless, they were the ones reaping their rewards for such clinical finishing.
The visitors were not deterred by the double setback, however, and set about finding their way back into the match. If it weren’t for the hands of Almunia, they could have found an almost immediate reply.
Francomb’s rasping free-kick was heading for the top corner, only for the outstretched Spaniard's hand to palm the ball onto the crossbar. It was a wonderful save.
Gavin Hoyte was forced off with an injury midway through the half and was replaced by Jernade Meade.
Norwich pressed, but the threat of Arsenal became too much in the 36th minute when Watt made it three. Luke Freeman was the architect this time, seeing his first shot saved by Declan Rudd before squaring for Watt.
The rest was inevitable. Watt swept home for his seventh goal of the season, continuing a fine run of scoring form which has seen him fail to net in just one fixture this season.
With just minutes of the first half remaining, Norwich found a lifeline. Boateng saw yellow for his illegal challenge inside the box and Matthew Ball did the rest from 12 yards, sending Almunia the wrong way. Game on.
Watt could have added a fourth before the half-time whistle, but as it was Banfield’s side headed in a pleasing two goals to the good at the break.
In the second half it was Norwich who looked livelier and they should have scored a second soon after the restart.
Good work from Jamar Loza down the right saw the winger skip past Meade before finding Ball inside the box. The striker skewed his effort wide, with substitute goalkeeper Sean McDermott surprisingly untested.
The second half quickly transformed into an quieter affair but with half an hour left the home side saw strong appeals for a penalty waved away.
Freeman skipped past goalkeeper Ruddy, only to be seemingly brought down inside the box. The referee disagreed, however, much to the frustration of the Arsenal players.
The Gunners were looking comfortable. It was by no means a second half of all-out attack from Banfield’s men, instead more of a controlled and concerted effort to wear Norwich down and get a fourth.
And the young Gunners did add another with 15 minutes remaining. Aneke gathered the ball inside the box on the angle before finishing neatly into the bottom corner past Rudd.
Arsenal had their cushion - important daylight to prevent any sniff of a Norwich revival.
The game was somewhat marred with 10 minutes left on the clock when Boateng was shown a red card for an altercation with a Norwich man - but it mattered little as Banfield’s men held on for the win.
Norwich were rewarded a last-gasp penalty with the last kick of the match when Eastmond was penalised inside the box, Francomb doing the necessary from the resulting spot-kick.
This victory leaves Arsenal second in the Reserve League South with a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers coming up next.
- Almunia 45
- Hoyte 24
- Boateng Yellow Card Red Card
- Aneke Goal!
- Eastmond Yellow Card
- Ozyakup Goal! Goal!
- Frimpong 68
- Watt Goal!
- McDermott 45
- Meade 24
- Ansah 68
- Francomb Goal!
- Murphy 18
- Florence 68
- Ball Goal!
- Johnson 18
- Dobbs 68