Pablo Mari made his first appearance in Arsenal colours and Rob Holding played 45 minutes, as we fell to defeat against Chelsea at Meadow Park.
Chances were few and far between in the opening exchanges, but Folarin Balogun broke the deadlock in style after 16 minutes when he collected the ball, and whipped a cross-cum-shot into the top corner from 25 yards.
With 15 minutes remaining of the first half, we came close to doubling our lead when Holding met an in-swinging corner at the back post, and his header flashed across the face of goal, evading our onrushing attackers.
Chelsea then failed to clear from the resulting goal kick which allowed Balogun to win back possession and take the ball round Karlo Ziger, but he saw his goal-bound strike blocked on the line.
We were then made to rue those missed chances soon after when Armando Broja raised highest at a corner to head the visitors level at the near post.
On the stroke of half-time, the visitors then took the lead after Karl Hein produced a superb double save to prevent Billy Gilmour’s initial efforts, but the rebound fell to the Chelsea captain inside the box, and he made no mistake at the third attempt.
Mari and Holding were replaced at the break in a planned change, and we started the second half brightly.
We came close to equalising when Balogun drove into the box and tested Ziger with a powerful effort that the Blues keeper tipped round the post.
Ziger again stood in the way of Balogun’s scoring his second of the match once more when he reacted well and got down low to prevent his effort, after our forward had skipped past a challenge and let fly inside the box.
With 10 minutes remaining, Hein was at his best to make a strong save to his left after Broja had broke into the box and powered an effort towards goal.
WHAT IT MEANS
We next face Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on Friday, February 28 at 7pm (UK time).
By Sam Cox
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