By Declan Taylor
A goal and an assist from Amaury Bischoff helped Arsenal Reserves to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Fulham at Underhill on Monday night.
The Portugal Under-21 international illuminated what was a gloomy evening in Barnet with a superb 39th-minute strike before providing Rui Fonte with his third goal of the season 11 minutes after half time.
A clean sheet was the perfect tonic for Neil Banfield’s side, who had conceded 10 goals in their opening five games. And it was this effective defensive display - in testing conditions – which provided the platform for victory.
Banfield made three changes to the side that was narrowly beaten at West Ham in their last outing. Fonte and Luke Ayling, who were among the substitutes against the Hammers, were brought into the starting line-up along with Henri Lansbury, who missed the trip to Bishops Stortford through suspension.
Bischoff, starting his third successive reserve fixture, slotted in on the right of a midfield quartet. Fran Merida occupied the left wing with Lansbury and Francis Coquelin in the Arsenal engine room. Jay Simpson started alongside the returning Fonte upfront. Ayling, starting only his second game for the reserves, partnered Paul Rodgers in the centre of the defence.
The steady drizzle over most of North London on Monday evening made for a particularly greasy surface and the early exchanges were full of over-hit passes and misjudged bounces. The tempo was high but the volume of goalmouth action was not.
Arsenal adapted to the conditions quickest and Fonte had the hosts’ first real sight of goal after 19 minutes when he tested David Stockdale from distance. His long-range drive looked destined for the top corner but the keeper acrobatically tipped his effort over.
Fonte went even closer to opening the scoring just before the half hour. The Portuguese met a testing Merida corner at the front post but his glancing header was cleared off the line by Joe Anderson who was stationed on the back post.
Fulham seemed increasingly reliant on long balls over the top but the mixture of a solid Arsenal defence and the sweeping rain kept Fulham’s clear-cut chances to a minimum.
Arsenal’s dominance in the first half finally told six minutes before the interval. Bischoff, lurking with intent on the edge of the Fulham area, flicked the ball over the head of Danny Hoeson before lashing a dipping strike into the top corner from 25 yards. It was the summer signing’s first goal on English soil and he will do well to better it.
Arsenal transferred their control into the second half and it took them a little over 10 minutes to double their lead. Fonte, who had been so unlucky not to register in the first half, finally got his reward for a sterling performance. Bischoff’s diagonal ball into the box was expertly brought down by the striker who kept his composure to slide past Stockdale for his third goal of the season.
Fulham looked devoid of ideas but did threaten briefly midway through the second half after a mistake from Abu Ogogo. Smith latched onto the defender’s short backpass and shot hard and low at Vito Mannone from six yards. Fortunately for the home side, the Italian stayed on his feet to deflect the ball clear.
Ten minutes from time Bischoff threatened to better his goal with a spectacular piledriver from an almost identical position. However, this time his shot was always rising and it never troubled the keeper. Simpson could have made it three in the dying stages but his effort was deflected agonisingly onto the crossbar.
- Ayling 60
- Coquelin 60
- Bischoff Goal!
- Lansbury 56
- Fonte Goal!
- Emmanuel-Thomas 60
- Frimpong 60
- Sunu 56
- Briggs 82
- Hoeson 63
- Smith 82
- Laribi 63