By Andrew Verspeak
Arsenal Reserves began their season with a dramatic 3-2 home win
against West Ham.
The away side led twice but Sebastian Larsson bagged a brace
with a fantastic long-range free-kick and a neat finish before
super sub Nicklas Bendtner grabbed the winner in injury time after
a cross from the ever lively Quincy. Although Arsenal's
third came late, it was just reward for a fine fightback in the
Neil Banfield started the season with a relatively experienced
side including Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Eboue, Quincy, Lupoli and
Larsson all with first-team experience.
David Bentley had been due to captain the side but the former
Norwich loanee was withdrawn shortly before kick off and replaced
in midfield by Patrick Cregg. For their part, West Ham featured a
wealth of experience with Steve Lomas, Carl Fletcher and Malky
The game started slowly and there was only one real chance in
the first quarter of an hour.
After five minutes Arsenal earned the first corner, Quincy
showed some neat footwork before threading through to Lupoli whose
shot was blocked. A second corner shortly after forced the first
real chance. Ryan Smith swung it in and Matthew Connolly rose to
send a powerful header goalwards which was well parried by Matt
The Gunners enjoyed the majority of the possession but it was
West Ham who opened the scoring after 24 minutes. James Collins
picked up the ball deep and found Kyel Reid with a inch-perfect
crossfield ball. Arsenal, temporarily down to 10 men through the
loss of Connolly with a head injury, were caught short at the
The young winger whipped in a cross for Mikolanda who glanced a
header onto the far post. Fortune favoured the East London side
however, and Trent McClenahan was on hand to tap the ball
The Hammers nearly grabbed another moments later when Howard was
caught out of position by Williams who tried an audacious chip from
distance. It fell just the wrong side of the post.
Arsenal had rarely threatened other than from set-pieces but
were nearly gifted a goal on the half hour. Reed, in the
Hammers' goal, got in a terrible mix up after a back pass and
gave the ball away to Lupoli. Nine times out of 10 you would back
the Italian hitman to score but a perfectly-timed challenge from
the keeper earned Arsenal only a corner.
As half-time approached Banfield's side began to look more
dangerous. On 42 minutes Quincy found himself in space and broke
down the middle. He found Lupoli who squared in the box but Darren
Blewitt was on hand to clear off the line for West Ham.
Moments later the Gunners were level. Their persistence was
rewarded with a free kick. It was some distance out, but there was
only one thing on the mind of Larsson as he stepped up to take it.
The Swede sent a sweet shot with his right foot inside the far
post. Reed was rooted to the spot.
However the joy was short-lived. West Ham took the lead again
when Fletcher crossed from the right wing and Sofiane was left
alone in the box to head past Howard.
Still the Gunners did not give up. Smith, looking increasing
lively, whipped in a ball and Lupoli saw his effort tipped over the
bar by Reed.
Last season's top scorer should have levelled the scores
again moments before the half time whistle. He rounded the keeper
only to see Collins once more block his effort off the line.
Arsenal started the second half in exactly the same fashion as
they finished the first and created an identical chance. Lupoli was
again one-on-one with the keeper, again he went round him and again
Blewitt was there to clear off of the line.
The game began to open up into the second period and
Quincy's pace was starting to cause the away side some real
problems. On 65 minutes the Dutch Under-21 international raced
through the middle and saw his shot cannon back out off of the
Smith was next to go close for the Gunners, hurtling down
the left before sending a low drive straight at Reed. But for all
their pressure Arsenal still could not find that breakthrough.
With 10 minutes remaining Banfield threw on Danish striker
Bendtner for winger Ryan Smith. It gave Arsenal an extra man up
Larsson at last levelled when Quincy, who had moved to the left
to accommodate Bendtner, played him through eight yards from goal.
The Swedish Under-21 international flicked the ball past the
despairing keeper and into the net.
With their tails up Arsenal went for the kill. Quincy again cut
the West Ham midfield apart and was crudely brought down by Mackay.
Larsson was on his hat-trick but this time Reed got the better of
him, holding on to his low free kick well.
But there was to be one last chance. Quincy drove a low ball
across the face of goal from the right and Bendtner arrived on cue
to thump home from close range. The comeback was complete.
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