By Isaac Moore at Madejski Stadium
Arsenal Under-21s were narrowly beaten by Reading at Madejski Stadium on Monday.
Craig Tanner and Aaron Tshibola gave Reading a two-goal advantage before Isaac Hayden reduced the arrears in first-half stoppage-time.
Both teams spurned chances in the second half but the home side held on to leave the Gunners still searching for a league win in 2014.
SETTING THE SCENE
Steve Gatting made two changes to the side that was held to a goalless draw by Southampton last time out. Julio Pleguezuelo returned at the heart of the defence in place of Stefan O'Connor while Gedion Zelalem came in for Yaya Sanogo.
Gatting opted to play without a recognised striker with Thomas Eisfeld, Ryo and Jon Toral all given the license to roam and interchange. Incidentally, Eisfeld was back at the stadium where he made his first-team bow for the Club - that incredible 7-5 League Cup victory back in 2012.
After an early spell of promising possession, Arsenal were forced onto the back foot and had to thank Matt Macey for keeping the scores level in the opening 15 minutes. The Englishman beat away an Tshibola strike in the 14th minute before tipping wide a low effort from striker Gozie Ugwu.
Reading took a deserved lead in the 27th minute after a well-worked move. Jack Stacey and Sean Long exchanged passes on the right and the former sent in a low cross to the unmarked Tanner, who buried a first-time shot into the corner.
Moments later, Tanner tested Macey with a curling free-kick from 30 yards but the Arsenal stopper got across his goal to make a comfortable save.
The game was forced into a lengthy pause on 33 minutes after Tafari Moore went down after an innocuous collision with Shane Griffin. The Arsenal full back was stretchered off.
The Royals doubled their lead five minutes later. Tarique Fosu-Henry was sent free down the left and the winger got to the byline before pulling back for the onrushing Tshibola, who turned home a low shot.
Reading could have gone further ahead on the stroke of half-time but Hayden stuck out a leg to make a last-ditch tackle and prevent Ugwu from shooting.
Arsenal were given a lifeline deep into first-half stoppage time when Hayden's drive sneaked under Dan Lincoln after Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill's cross was only half cleared.
The game became more open at the start of the second period. Fosu-Henry tested Macey from range before before Toral sent a free-kick high and wide.
Reading came close to scoring a third on the hour mark when Stacey glanced over Tanner's corner when he perhaps should have found the target.
Arsenal's best chance to equalise came midway through the second half when Ryo skipped past Griffin before finding Eisfeld with a pinpoint cross, but the German miscued his first-time volley wide.
Ugwu then twice went close to scoring his second. First he dragged a shot wide after cutting inside Ormonde-Otttewill, before rattling the post with an effort from a tight angle seconds later.
Injuries to players on both teams interrupted the flow of the game and it petered out without any further chances of note - much to the frustration of Gatting's men.
- Hayden Goal! Yellow Card
- Moore 35
- Pleguezuelo 89
- Olsson Yellow Card
- Zelalem 62
- Toral Yellow Card
- Fagan 35
- Kamara 89
- Lipman 62
- Tshibola Goal!
- Tanner Goal!
- Fosu 88
- Kelly 88