By Isaac Moore at Meadow Park
Arsenal Under-21s conceded twice in extra time as they were beaten 3-1 by Reading in the semi-finals of the Premier League Cup on Saturday.
Isaac Hayden had given the Gunners an early lead from the penalty spot but Craig Tanner headed in an equaliser for the visitors seven minutes before half-time.
Arsenal had chances to win the game in the second half but lacked composure in the final third. The Gunners started to tire in extra time and Tanner and Liam Kelly took full advantage to condemn them to defeat.
SETTING THE SCENE
Steve Gatting made four changes to the side that lost to the Royals last month. Stefan O'Connor replaced Julio Pleguezuelo at centre back, Glen Kamara came in for Gedion Zelalem while Hector Bellerin also made the starting line-up.
Arsenal came into this tie with three clean sheets from three in the competition - all away from home.
The extra-time win over Chelsea in the quarter-finals was one their best defensive displays of of the season and a similar display would be required against Martin Kuhl's physically adept side.
The Gunners were lacklustre in the defeat at the Madejski Stadium last month and they immediately set about making amends on a sunny Hertfordshire afternoon. In the fifth minute, Thomas Eisfeld's corner was met by O'Connor and his looping header was cleared off the line by Niall Keown.
In the 12th minute, Reading skipper Aaron Kuhl sent an effort just wide from 25 yards after Arsenal were slow to react to Kelly's disguised free-kick.
Arsenal's opener came after some clever forward play from Austin Lipman. The 18-year-old wriggled past two defenders before his trickery was too much for Jake Cooper, who tripped the forward giving the referee no choice but to point to the spot. Isaac Hayden kept his cool from 12 yards with a powerful side-footed finish.
Eisfeld squandered a chance to double the Gunners' advantage on 28 minutes. Hayden drove forward from deep and picked out the German with an angled pass, before Eisfeld cut inside his man but lifted a shot over from the edge of the box.
Reading's equaliser came totally out of the blue. Jack Stacey sent in a cross from the right wing and Tanner ghosted into the box completely unmarked and diverted past the helpless Macey.
The second period began at a frantic pace. Lipman almost found the net from a tight angle when he latched onto Jon Toral's pass but his shot was kicked away by Reading keeper Dan Lincoln.
In the 51st minute Tarique Fosu's miscued cross almost caught out Macey but the ball floated just over. Reading were starting to look the more threatening of the sides and went close to taking the lead when Tanner's shot from a tight angle hit Macey's legs.
The Royals then missed a glorious opportunity to go in front. Tanner played a neat one-two with Tarique Fosu inside the box before rattling a shot against the bar from just outside the six-yard box.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes, space started to open up for both sides. Hayden saw two efforts from the edge of the box blocked while Bellerin and Eisfeld both saw dangerous crosses cleared.
In the 86th minute, Eisfeld raced to the byeline before cushioning a pass back to Lipman but his shot was weak and Reading eventually scrambled to safety.
The home side had Macey to thank for taking the game to extra time when he pulled off an outstanding save at full stretch to deny Tanner in the dying seconds of stoppage time.
Unsurprisingly, the additional half hour was a cagey affair. Arsenal's first opening came in the 99th minute when Kamara teed up Eisfeld who blazed his shot over.
Reading took the lead three minutes later. A loose through ball looked to be carrying safely through to to Macey but he hesitated, and Tanner nipped in to prod home.
The tie was put beyond Arsenal at the start of the second period when Kelly headed in Shane Griffin's deep cross.
- O'Connor 71
- Hayden Goal! Yellow Card
- Miyaichi 76
- Toral 71
- Siemann 71
- Iwobi 76
- Olsson 71
- Dan Lincoln
- Kuhl Yellow Card
- Tanner 116 Goal! Goal!
- Fosu 65
- Kelly 114 Goal!
- Stuart Moore
- Long 116
- Murombedzi 114
- Harry Cardwell 65