By Nick Teale
Arsenal Reserves ended their season in style with a 3-0 win at Portsmouth on Monday night.
The fans at Havant and Waterooville's Westleigh Park were treated when Chuks Aneke scored a brilliant opener. But Nacer Barazite added an even better second from 35 yards shortly before half time.
And with seven minutes to play Jernade Meade scored his first Reserve-team goal after impressive movement down the left wing.
The Gunners' title hopes were ended last week when Aston Villa beat Fulham, but tonight's victory ensures Neil Banfield's side finish second in the Reserve League South.
Craig Eastmond represented the first-team in Wigan on Sunday so was unavailable. But Conor Henderson, an unused substitute at DW Stadium, started.
Arsenal started brightly and Pompey keeper Liam O'Brien had to be quick to smoother the ball when Barazite slotted through to Benik Afobe 12 minutes in.
And in the 17th minute the Gunners took the lead. Aneke got the ball in the middle of the park 25 yards from goal and unleashed a powerful effort with his left foot. O'Brien had absolutely no chance of stopping the effort as it flew into the top corner.
The near-300 fans inside Westleigh Park thought they had seen a stunning opener. They had, but things would only get better later in the half.
Portsmouth had a chance to level midway through the first period when Matt Ritchie collected Gael Nlundulu's cross from the right. His cutback fell for Lewis Stockford and the Pompey man made a connection before the ball was blocked by Miquel.
Nadir Ciftci also had a chance to equalise but his long-range effort was weak and never looked like hitting the back of the net.
As the sun disappeared behind the clouds and the floodlights were forced into use it looked as though the half would draw to a quiet end, with little to report in terms of attacking play.
Then up stepped Barazite.
The Dutchman was 35 yards from goal, slightly right of centre and bang! Barazite's boot was the launch pad as the forward unleashed a rocket which flew into the back of the net leaving O'Brien helpless again.
Aneke's super opener had just been topped. Three minutes after Barazite's third goal in as many games, the referee blew for half time.
Shortly after the interval Nico Yennaris was unfortunate when his placed shot took a slight deflection away from goal after Afobe had held off the Pompey challenges to tee up the Arsenal midfielder.
Freeman was inches from adding a third to Arsenal's tally when he leapt to meet Cedric Evina's cross. Unfortunately he was couldn’t quite reach it at the back post.
Martin Angha and Roarie Deacon came on as substitutes for Hajrovic and Aneke either side of that Freeman chance.
With 18 minutes to play O'Brien needed an outstretched hand to palm away Afobe's close-range effort before Shea punched Nlundulu's free kick clear of his area.
Banfield then made his final change of the night, introducing Meade in place of Afobe.
Freeman's deflected effort from inside the area was the forerunner to a brace of Arsenal corners 11 minutes from time before Meade added a third in the closing stages.
He collected the ball on the left wing, nodded it beyond substitute right back Lewis Tallack and cut into the area. From about six yards out he smashed a shot across goal, burying the ball in the bottom corner.
Not a bad way to open your Reserve League account.
And not a bad way for Neil Banfield's side to end their season. They opened with a 3-0 victory over Fulham and closed with a win of the same scoreline at Portsmouth, ensuring them of second place in the table.
Referee: Gary Jerden
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