By Rob Kelly at Cobham
Arsenal Reserves claimed their fourth win on the bounce with an impressive 2-0 victory at Chelsea on Monday afternoon.
Neil Banfield’s men delivered another dominant display against their London rivals, and opened the scoring through the lively Chuks Aneke in the 28th minute.
Hector Bellerin then squeezed a header over the line from a tight angle in the 79th minute to put the seal on another hugely-encouraging performance from the second string.
It followed successive victories over Swansea, Wolves and Norwich and means they have scored 12 without conceding from the last four matches.
With the first team in Champions League action against AC Milan on Tuesday night, Banfield named a far less experienced side to the one that beat Norwich 5-0.
Only three of those who started at Carrow Road were included for this match - Nico Yennaris, Martin Angha and Jernade Meade - as the Gunners fielded a young team.
Gavin Hoyte - who recently spent a month-long loan spell at AFC Wimbledon - returned to captain the side, while Aneke - back from a spell at Stevenage - came into the midfield.
Exciting German forward Serge Gnabry was included after scoring for the Under-18s on Saturday, while Josh Rees was rewarded for his excellent goalscoring form for Steve Bould’s men with a Reserves start.
Chelsea, meanwhile, included Nathaniel Chalobah in their side, who scored twice against the Gunners at London Colney in December, and Amin Affane who recently bagged a brace against the Under-18s.
Despite playing into a strong breeze, Arsenal made a bright start to the match and should have opened the scoring within four minutes.
The chance arrived when Aneke set up Kyle Ebecilio on the edge of the box, who sent in a slightly scuffed effort that Jamal Blackman could only palm straight to Zak Ansah. But with the goal gaping, the Arsenal striker sent his shot into the side netting.
Chalobah twice nearly claimed the opening goal for the hosts, firstly with a wickedly curling free kick from 20 yards and then with a close-range header that Damian Martinez palmed over brilliantly.
With Aneke in influential form and dropping off into space to good effect, Banfield’s side were a constant threat in attack and the hard-working Rees saw a shot deflected inches wide in the 28th minute.
Within 60 seconds the Gunners grabbed the lead as Ebecilio played in Aneke, who rounded Blackman calmly and slotted home into the empty net.
Chelsea continued to probe, although a combination of resolute defending and a poor final ball let them down, while Gnabry came close to grabbing a second for Arsenal after a weaving run into the box.
The second half started in scrappy fashion but Arsenal carved out the best chance when Gnabry burst down the left and cut the ball back for Ansah. The striker bought some space but saw his shot well blocked by Adam Nditi in the area.
Chelsea came close to an equaliser just after the hour mark when a firm shot from the edge of the area was pushed away acrobatically by the impressive Martinez.
Aneke then curled a shot just over when well placed, before Gnabry pounced on a misplaced pass to burst forward and fire in a shot that was parried by Blackman.
Arsenal finally claimed their second goal when Bellerin showed lightning pace to storm past his man up the right flank. The Spaniard’s poked shot was saved by Blackman, but the ball fell to him and he just about headed it over the line from a tight angle.
- Hoyte (C)
- Ebecilio 59
- Aneke Goal!
- Ansah 80
- Bellerin 80 59 Goal!
- Wynter 80
- Roberts 80
- Affane 46
- Baker 46