By Richard Clarke
Three goals in eight second-half minutes gave Arsenal victory
over Reading in a friendly played behind-closed-doors at the
Club's training ground on Thursday lunchtime.
Simon Church volleyed the visitors in front two minutes after
the interval but substitute Arturo Lupoli grabbed two just past the
hour and Fabrice Muamba added another 13 minutes from the final
whistle. Only the width of the post prevented the Italian striker
completing his hat-trick in injury time.
The watching Arsène Wenger sent out a youthful side for a
game played, in part, amid a hail storm. Alexander Hleb was the
most established player on show but Theo Walcott was also given a
run-out after recovering from a shoulder complaint.
Reading fielded virtually an Under-19s side themselves but they
were more than a match for Arsenal in the first half.
Although Nicklas Bendtner hit the bar from an acute angle in the
opening minutes and then fired wide from Hleb's clever pass,
the Berkshire side's chances were of a higher quality.
The lively Michael Dobson thumped a long-range shot against the
angle of post and bar. Then, in the 20th minute, the on-loan
Brentford midfielder created the best chance of the half. He sent
Simon Cox clear on the edge of the area. His sliding shot beat
Manuel Almunia but rolled wide of the post.
A hailstorm then began. But the game was not raining chances.
The best opportunities fell to Walcott just before the break. The
former Southampton winger used his pace to avoid his marker but the
two long-range efforts he produced were too close to Reading keeper
Arsenal made three substitutions at the break. In the 47th
minute, one of them, Mart Poom, mis-judged a high, swirling cross
from the right. The ball was cut back into the area straight away
and Church volleyed home from close range after Cox's initially
shot had been blocked on the line by Matthew Connolly.
Lupoli, another half time replacement, might have equalised
immediately. But his header from Walcott's excellent run and
cross was snaffled away.
On the hour, Connolly, who looked excellent at the back, showed
his prowess going forward with a rasping 25-yard shot that beat the
keeper and cannoned back off the bar.
Reading responded with Church racing down the left and crossing
low for full back Scott Goldbourne to send a rising shot just over
Gradually Arsenal were assuming control. Walcott's shot was
touched on by the predatory Lupoli and Scott Davis scrambled the
ball off the line.
The former Parma striker would not denied for long. In the 69th
minute, he collected a long pass from the right, cut inside his
marker and fired low into the net.
Four minutes later, Lupoli played a cute one-two with Bendtner,
his strike partner in the Reserves, and slid home a second from
A third followed with in the 77th minute. Bendtner profited from
a slip from Reading centre back Curtis Osanu and squared the ball
unselfishly for Muamba to score.
Poom pulled off a magnificent one-handed save from Church in the
dying minutes and then, in injury time, Lupoli collected a ball
from Bendtner and shot goalward.
His shot beat Hamer but bounced back off the woodwork.
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