By Declan Taylor
David Bentley struck a brilliant brace for a multi-million-pound Tottenham outfit to deny Arsenal a deserved share of the spoils at Leyton Orient on Wednesday night.
Although Neil Banfield's boys dominated the opening stages, the ex-Gunner opened the scoring just before the half-hour with a pulsating scissor kick. Then, after more valiant pressing from Arsenal’s youthful second string, Bentley arrowed home his second from all of 30 yards 20 minutes from time.
Sanchez Watt’s first Reserve-team strike provided a glimmer of hope 60 seconds later but they were unable to find a winner.
After losing out in such a disappointing manner last week, the Reserves will be surely encouraged by their gallant efforts against an experienced Tottenham side.
Banfield made two changes to the side that was humbled at Underhill five days ago with Francis Coquelin and Gilles Sunu replacing Fran Merida and Amaury Bischoff.
While Arsenal named nine FA Youth Cup kids in their starting line-up, Tottenham’s star-studded XI was worth close to £45million; a figure that would even eclipse the cost of the Gunners’ first team that faces Villarreal on Wednesday night.
All £15 million worth of Bentley was stationed on the right of the hosts’ midfield - a big test for Tom Cruise at left-back. However, one testing delivery after 30 seconds aside, the ex-Gunner had a very quiet opening half-hour.
Arsenal on the other hand started with real purpose, with last week’s defeat on their minds perhaps. In the 12th minute, Sunu intercepted a sloppy square pass but could not find Watt with his through-ball with the counter-attack looking promising. Then Craig Eastmond and Emmanuel Frimpong both tried their luck in quick succession.
Arsenal’s first gilt-edge chance came in the 25th minute after some good work from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Mark Randall. The pair combined to feed Watt 10 yards out but the striker’s sliding effort was well saved by Ben Alnwick.
But, after offering very little on the front foot, Tottenham took an undeserved lead thanks to a flash of sheer Premier League brilliance from Bentley.
Gareth Bale muscled to the byline and stood up a delightful cross for the 24-year-old at the back post who blasted a perfectly executed volley across Wojciech Szczesny.
Despite the set-back, Arsenal finished the half in the ascendancy. Two minutes before the break, a weak clearance fell to Mark Randall who volleyed tamely over the bar after controlling the ball on his chest.
Moments later, Sunu found Watt with a low cross but the waiting striker lost his footing at the vital moment. Just like last week, Arsenal looked the most threatening, but like last week, they were behind at half-time.
Two minutes after the break Szczesny got down brilliantly to avert Pascal Chimbonda’s firm header but the visitors were soon back into their stride.
Emmanuel-Thomas lashed a strike just wide from the edge of the area before Sunu waltzed into the area but couldn’t produce a meaningful shot.
Two direct free-kicks did the damage at Underhill last week and Spurs looked threatening from dead-balls once again. Bentley’s effort drifted inches over before Bale clattered an effort from 20 yards against the outside of the post.
The Welshman struck the post once again before Bentley doubled the lead with a strike possibly even better than the first, hammering a show-stopper into the top corner from all of 30 yards in the 69th minute.
However, within 60 seconds, the arrears were halved. Sunu, full of thankless running all evening, crossed for Watt to sweep home from eight yards.
Arsenal threw caution to the wind in search of an equaliser, with Banfield replacing both his front men with the England Under-17 strike force of Luke Freeman and Benik Afobe.
But, in the end, it was the home side which looked most capable of scoring again and the Gunners finished the game on the back foot.
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