By Giuseppe Muro at Cobham Training Ground
Luke Freeman scored a stunning injury-time equaliser to earn the Reserves a 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Wednesday.
With time running out, Freeman conjured something out of nothing to lash home from a tight angle and give the second-string a fully-deserved point at Cobham Training Ground.
Rhys Murphy, making his first start since December 10, had earlier fired Arsenal ahead before second-half goals from Conor Clifford and Milan Lalkovic gave Chelsea the initiative.
That was until Freeman’s rocket levelled it up in the dying seconds.
This was the third consecutive fixture between these sides and, much like the previous two encounters, there was very little to choose between the London neighbours.
There was a slight reshuffle from last week’s 1-0 win at London Colney with Craig Eastmond and match-winner Carlos Vela having left on loan. Thomas Cruise started in central midfield with Jernade Meade at left back.
With three temporary stands and floodlights glaring (despite the 2:05pm kick-off time) the game had a unusual feel to it during the opening stages.
Chelsea came out of the blocks quicker than the young Gunners with Adam Phillip inches away from tapping in Lalkovic’s centre and then Gokhan Tore’s close-range header bringing the best out of James Shea.
Then, from a free kick, Phillip’s header hit the inside of the post, bounced behind Shea and somehow trickled along the goal-line before going behind. It was a huge let-off which seemed to shock Banfield’s side into life.
Freeman and Murphy were looking lively up front and, after a reshuffle that saw Cruise revert to left back, they were also looking stronger at the back.
Both sides continued to plug away without creating any clear-cut chances. That was until four minutes before the break.
First-team regular Joshua McEachran dwelt on the ball in midfield and Chuks Aneke pounced. The forward drove into the box, drew a defender before slipping a clever ball to Murphy who took one touch to steady himself before lashing past Samuel Walker from 10 yards.
It was slightly against the run of play, but far from underserved.
After the break, Chelsea came out strongly and got back on level terms when Clifford drilled a low shot past Shea via the left upright eight minutes into the second period.
In front of the watching Carlo Ancelotti, the home side continued to press and went ahead when Youth Cup tormenter Lalkovic tapped in from a yard with Arsenal appealing for offside.
Freeman could, and perhaps should, have made it 2-2 after 66 minutes when he missed the target with the goal at his mercy after brilliant play from Oguzhan Ozyakup.
The young forward was having a frustrating afternoon, it seemed nothing was going his way.
That was until the clock ticked into injury time.
He jinxed past Clifford on the left before driving into the penalty area and, with seemingly very little on, thundered an unstoppable shot into the top-right corner from a tight angle to spark jubilation among the Arsenal players.