By Chris Harris
Philippe Senderos marked his return to action with the winning goal as Arsenal Reserves beat Portsmouth 1-0 at Underhill.
It's been a torrid season for the Swiss defender, who moved to London last summer but has yet to feature in a competitive first-team game for Arsenal.
A back injury and a broken bone in his foot had restricted Senderos to just one reserve appearance but his luck changed on Tuesday night.
The second half was barely two minutes old when David Bentley swung in a cross from the right following a short corner. John Spicer failed to get his head on the ball but Senderos was on hand to send a crisp, left-footed shot past the goalkeeper.
It was a lead that Arsenal deserved at the time, but they were perhaps fortunate to claim all three points after a stirring fightback from Pompey. The home side were indebted to Graham Stack, who produced two masterful saves to deny the visitors.
Stack was woefully under-employed in the first half as Eddie Niedzwiecki's team dominated. Ray Parlour was another notable starter after two months on the sidelines with a knee ligament injury.
Parlour captained Arsenal and showed no ill-effects from his injury in the early stages, firing in two low shots which Chris Tardif held and stopping Mark Wilson with a typically fierce challenge.
Alongside Parlour was Cesc Fabregas, 15 years his junior but once again underlining his potential with a composed, tenacious performance.
Aside from pot shots from David Bentley and Parlour, Arsenal created little in the opening exchanges but they could have taken the lead after 27 minutes.
Justin Hoyte cut inside his marker on the right flank and crossed for Jeremie Aliadiere, who hooked a volley towards goal as the ball dropped marginally behind him. Wonderful technique, but Tardif was equal to it.
Tardif was forced into another fine save two minutes later when Bentley advanced unchallenged to fire in a shot from 20 yards, but the Pompey goalkeeper should have been beaten five minutes before the interval.
This time Bentley's shot cannoned off Aliadiere and bounced kindly for Michal Papadopulos. Only Tardif stood in the way but the on-loan striker lashed his shot wildly over the crossbar.
Fortunately for Arsenal, Senderos showed far more composure in front of goal two minutes into the second half to put the hosts ahead.
On the evidence of the first 50 minutes one would have expected Arsenal to add further goals, but Senderos' strike galvanised Portsmouth into action.
They were unfortunate not to equalise on a number of occasions. Scott Harris thought his low shot had restored parity but Stack stuck out a hand and Senderos completed the clearance with Pompey claiming that the ball had already crossed the line.
Just after the hour mark Parlour was replaced. Reserves manager Niedzwiecki revealed afterwards that the midfielder "turned an ankle" but otherwise felt no ill effects following his lay-off.
With Parlour back in the dressing room, Portsmouth pushed even harder for an equaliser. They should have grabbed it with 11 minutes remaining.
After a melee in the penalty area, the ball bounced for Matthew Day. He forced a wonderful save from Stack, who recovered to tip another shot from Wilson over the bar seconds later.
Arsenal clung on for all three points and in doing so stretched their unbeaten record to eight games, a run which has included six victories.
- Our next reserve game is at Wimbledon on Wednesday, April 21. Click here for a full list of Arsenal's Reserve League fixtures.
Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source
13 Apr 2004