By Richard Clarke
Arsenal Reserves missed out on the chance to go second in the Premier Division (South) after they were beaten by Southampton at Barnet FC on Monday night.
The visitors looked stronger in the opening half and deservedly led 2-1 at the break. However their goals were split by a superb strike from Arsenal. Gilberto, in his third Reserve team outing after a long-term injury, played a perfectly-weighted pass and Arturo Lupoli steered home his 15th goal in 16 games for the second-string.
To their credit, Arsenal, who also included Pascal Cygan, took the game to their opponents after the interval but they could not get on level terms.
The game took time to settle into any pattern. In the ninth minute, Lupoli's superb run was halted illegally just outside the corner of the area and Stephen O'Donnell fired a free-kick into the wall.
But a slick-looking Southampton side soon began to find their range. They were particularly dangerous from free-kicks by Lloyd James. The first example came in the 11th minute when, after a delivery from the left-flank, Craig Richards connected at the far post and Stuart Taylor snaffled the ball behind for a corner.
In the 17th minute they took the lead when David McGoldrick collected a quick throw-in, turned Frankie Simek and fired home from 10 yards.
Southampton continued to look the better side but, oddly, it took Arsenal's equaliser to prompt them into creating further chances. That came in the 31st minute and was a moment of pure class. Gilberto split the visiting defence with a low, pacy pass and Lupoli raced on to clip his shot over the advancing keeper.
Southampton's response was swift. In the 37th minute, Olafur-Ingi Skulason fouled Josh Dutton-Black on the left. James swung over the free-kick into the area and Feliciano Condesso flicked a header against the outside of the post. The ball was half-cleared by the home defence and they conceded a free-kick just outside their area. James, again, swung it over and it fell to McGoldrick who fired it back into the crowded area and Dutton-Black applied the finishing touch from close-range.
They might have extended their lead before the break. Taylor saved well after Best burst clear on the right then Dutton-Black had a long-range effort deflected wide
Arsenal nearly responded eight minutes after the interval. Patrick Cregg's free-kick was flicked to Lupoli lurking at the far post and Blayney managed to repel his scuffed shot from close range. The keeper bowled the ball out quickly and within seconds James was firing wide at the other end.
It showed that Southampton still looked lively on the break but Arsenal were creating chances. The next came just past the hour when Cregg clipped a ball over the visiting defence for Birchall in space. The Wales Under-21 international beat the keeper but his effort trickled past the upright. Then Anthony Stokes crossed and Lupoli just failed to connect.
Soon after, the Irishman hacked over from six yards after O'Donnell's corner fell to him at the near post.
As the game wore on, Arsenal's dominance increased and Southampton's breakaways diminished. With 10 minutes left, Lupoli tried to lift an effort over Blayney but the keeper held on.
As did his team in the final stages.Copyright 2017 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