By Richard Clarke
Barnet's goalkeepers thwarted the Arsenal strike force at Underhill on Saturday as the Club's first pre-season friendly ended goalless.
Lee Harrison and substitute Ross Flitney made string of fine saves most notably from visiting striker Jeremie Aliadiere as Arsène Wenger's side failed to turn their superiority into goals.
A young Arsenal squad played some neat football but never really took the game by the throat. However at this time of the season their manager will be pleased with this work-out.
Underhill was packed for the visit of the side who use the ground for their second-string games. Arsène Wenger had promised to field the best side available and was as good as his word. The club's top young talent plus the first-team experience of Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, Manuel Almunia and Pascal Cygan were on show. The World Cup players were not present however, they have not yet returned to training.
Arsenal's starting line-up included a pair of players who had spent last term out on loan - Jeremie Aliadiere and Justin Hoyte. Two new signings were also on show. Joe O'Cearuill, a 19-year-old from Watford, began the game at centre half while Vincent van den Berg, a 17-year-old striker from Heerenveen, was on the bench.
Barnet had two familiar Arsenal names in their side. Former reserve team regular Nicky Nicolau was on trail along with Magno Vieira. However the Brazilian forward is no relation to the former Highbury favourite.
Within two minutes, the class of the Premiership side could be seen. Aliadiere deftly controlled a long pass forward with the outside of his foot then crashed a shot goalward. Harrison parried the ball out to Alex Hleb but his shot was deflected over the bar.
Barnet took another 10 minutes to muster their first chance but it was a decent effort. Nicolau fed Nicky Bailey and the full back's cross-shot alarmed Manuel Almunia for a second before drifting wide.
Arsenal replied immediately but Harrison got his fingers to Alex Song's cheeky chip and ex-England defender Paul Warhurst cleared the danger. At this point the visitors were in command, their only fault was over elaboration when the ball got into the area.
Bendtner nodded wide at the far post from Ryan Smith's swirling cross and Harrison rushed out to smother a shot at the feet of Aliadiere.
In the 29th minute Almunia raced out of his area to slide tackle Vieira after he burst clear. The keeper won the ball cleanly and then had the presence of mind to flick a square ball to a team-mate as Guiliano Grazioli looked like he was going to steal in.
A moment of comedy arrived seven minutes before the break. Barnet's veteran midfielder Andy Hessenthaler sprang the offside trap and raced up the right wing then into the area. Unfortunately when he tried to cross he produced an air-shot and then stumbled to the turf. In injury time, O'Cearuill forced a header over the bar for Arsenal.
The first half had proved to be languid fare and there was little change after the restart. Aliadiere flicked a shot wide after escaping down the left wing.
On the hour the French striker had a better chance. Song saw him sprinting across the face of goal and timed his ball perfectly. Aliadiere's first effort was saved by sub keeper Ross Flitney and second bobbled wide of the post. Van den Berg replaced Song soon afterwards.
In the 65th minute and error by Anthony Charles gave Muamba a clear sight of goal. He strode forward but Flitney blocked with his leg and Lupoli missed the rebound.
Two minutes Richard Graham swung a free-kick into the area and Ismail Yakubu nodded in at the far post. However the goal was disallowed for offside. The same ruling saw Lupoli's effort chalked off a few second later. But at least the game was starting to open up.
To illustrate the point Lupoli and Aliadiere forced further saves from Flitney. Just before time the keeper hobbled off holding his back and Harrison came back on. It did not change much.
Graham might have won the game for the home side at the death but he blazed his effort over the bar.
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