Our Under-21s finished the Bristol Street Motors Trophy group stage with a 5-2 defeat against Reading's first team at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Tuesday night.
We still progressed to the knockout stages of the competition, after finishing second in the group.
First team squad members Fabio Vieira and Reiss Nelson both started the match, the former pulling one back from the penalty spot when we were 2-0 down after goals from Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan and Caylan Vickers for Reading. Ehibhatiomhan netted his brace as we went into the half-time break 3-1 down.
Excellent skill from Nelson saw us pull one back to 3-2 courtesy of Khayon Edwards, before Ovie Ejeheri saved a penalty from Ehibhatiomhan with half an hour to go. Harvey Knibbs restored the two goal-lead for Reading though and we were unable to comeback into the game. Vieira had another penalty in the second half, but it was saved by Joel Pereira. Ayden Heaven saw red late on as we finished the game with ten men, and Sam Smith scored late on for 5-2.
Royals start on top
Ehibhatiomhan dragged a low shot wide of the far post after a loose pass from Heaven for the host's first chance of the game, before Ejeheri brilliantly played the ball over to Nelson on the left. He turned back and found Bradley Ibrahim, who poked it through to Vieira, but the ball ran out of play.
Charles Sagoe Jnr drifted in from the right and struck a low left footed shot straight at Pereira before Reading took the lead.
Vickers played the ball through to Nesta Guinness-Walker, who put it on a plate for Ehibhatiomhan to tap in.
Jack Henry-Francis put his body on the line to block another shot from Ehibhatiomhan and concede a corner, which was fizzed over to Tom Holmes, his header caught comfortably by Ejeheri.
At the other end, Nelson's rising strike was tipped over the bar following tidy build-up between Ibrahim and Vieira, but Reading punished us on the break from our following corner.
Paul Mukairu found Vickers on the counter-attack, who slotted the ball into the bottom left corner for 2-0.
Sagoe Jnr fired wide of the far post with power having been played in by Ibrahim as we looked for a way back into the game, while Ejeheri kept the score at 2-0 by stopping the cross from Vickers, who had shown good footwork to get into our penalty area.
Vieira offers hope
Nelson struck high over the bar from a narrow angle, but we did then create an opportunity to pull one back as Reuell Walters poked the ball through to Edwards to run onto. He took it around Pereira, who brought Edwards down, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.
Vieira made no mistake, calmly placing it into the bottom right corner. 2-1 to Reading.
Guinness-Walker sent an inviting cross over to Jayden Wareham, whose header was caught, but Ehibhatiomhan restored Reading's two-goal lead with a shot into the bottom right corner in the 35th minute.
Walters, constantly overlapping and bombing down the right wing, had a cross caught at the other end before a great sliding challenge from Taylor Foran on Mukairu saw us concede a corner.
Just before half-time, Nelson cut in from the left and had a shot deflected wide. Vieira floated the corner to Foran at the back post, who headed it back across goal. Edwards acrobatically struck wide with his back to goal and we went into the break 3-1 down.
Nelson takes control
Early in the second half, Nelson helped to reduce the arrears once more, taking the ball from the left wing to the byline and producing a brilliant piece of skill to create an opening for a cross to Edwards, who just had to tap the ball across the line for 3-2.
But, with just over half an hour remaining, Mukairu was tripped in the penalty area by Walters and the referee pointed to the spot again.
On a hat-trick, Ehibhatiomhan stepped up to take the penalty, but Ejeheri saved it brilliantly, stretching down to his left to push the ball behind for a corner, which was headed wide by Harlee Dean.
We were pushed back down to two goals behind in the 68th minute, a header over the top of our backline falling for Knibbs to volley in for 4-2.
Vieira's cross was then headed towards goal by Walters as the ball deflected wide for a corner to us, which came out to Miguel Azeez. His venomous strike was spilled into the path of Foran who smashed it across the line, but the flag went up for offside.
Vickers played a delicate one-two with Knibbs on the right before shooting wide of the post as Reading looked to increase their lead further, before Clinton Mola forced a save from Ejeheri.
With nine minutes to go, Nelson did well to draw a foul from Dean in the penalty area. Vieira stepped up to take and went for the bottom right again, but this time Pereira got down to make the save.
Searching for a fifth, Lewis Wing found Vickers in space on the right and he shot straight at Ejeheri, before Seb Ferdinand drilled the ball across to Edwards, whose shot went out for a corner.
Mountain to climb
We were reduced to ten men in the 89th minute as Heaven was sent off for a strong challenge, before the fourth official indicated there would be 12 minutes of added time.
Matty Carson setup a chance for Wing who had time and space to go for goal, but once again it was straight at Ejeheri, who was able to make a simple catch.
Ferdinand's cross was met on the volley but Edwards and Henry-Francis carried it over the bar as we continued to fight for our third goal of the evening, but Smith then buried the ball into the bottom right for 5-2 to finish the scoring.
What it means
We finish second in Group O of the competition, qualifying for the knockout stages.
Following the November international break, we make the trip to Keys Park on Monday, December 4 to face West Bromwich Albion U21s in Premier League 2 Division One. There is also an Under-19s game against RC Lens in the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday, November 29, which many of the same players will be involved in.
Arsenal: Ejeheri, Walters, Foran, Monlouis (Ferdinand 78), Heaven, Ibrahim (Azeez 56), Henry-Francis, Vieira, Sagoe Jnr, Edwards, Nelson (Nichols 90+5).
Substitutes (not used): Hillson, Gower, Oulad M'Hand, Kacurri.
Reading: Pereira, Holmes, Dean, Mukairu, Ehibhatiomhan (Smith 73), Guinness-Walker (Wing 63), Wareham (Knibbs 65), Mbengue (Mola 74), Craig, Vickers (Wellens 86), Carson.
Substitutes (not used): Button, Ahmed.
Goals: Arsenal - Vieira (33), Edwards (53), Reading - Ehibhatiomhan (13, 35), Vickers (25), Knibbs (68), Smith (90+6)
Bookings: Arsenal - Ibrahim (11), Walters (19), Reading - Guinness-Walker (45+3), Holmes (55), Craig (67)
Red card: Arsenal - Heaven (89)
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.