By Rob Kelly at Carrow Road
Andrey Arshavin netted twice as Arsenal Reserves put in a superb performance to beat Norwich 5-0 at Carrow Road on Tuesday evening.
Ju Young Park opened the scoring in the sixth minute from close range before Arshavin curled in a second just before half time.
Benik Afobe - who had earlier missed a penalty - claimed the third in the 58th minute before Arshavin registered again seven minutes later. Yossi Benayoun capped off a brilliant individual display with the final goal just before the end.
Neil Banfield named a strong side for the match in Norfolk with a clutch of first-team players appearing. Arshavin was included for his first Reserves appearance of the season and the Russian lined up in attack alongside Marouane Chamakh and Park.
Benayoun started in midfield while Carl Jenkinson continued his rehabilitation from a back injury by featuring at right back.
The was also a return to action for Afobe, who sustained a serious groin injury in the Emirates Cup match against New York Red Bulls in July, although he was named on the bench.
Norwich meanwhile named a young side mainly made up of Academy prospects, although they included six of the side that lost 4-2 at London Colney in November.
Banfield’s side immediately hit their stride and were spraying passes about insouciantly in the early stages, as Benayoun and Arshavin showed their class.
With just five minutes on the clock, Nico Yennaris played a beautifully-weighted ball over the top of the Norwich backline for Arshavin to run on to. The Russian reached the ball just before onrushing goalkeeper David Wooton but his lob drifted just over.
It mattered not as 60 seconds later Arsenal had their lead as Benayoun bought some space in the box with his quick feet his powerful shot struck the near post. The ball flew straight to the feet of Park though, who made no mistake from close range.
The second string were bossing proceedings and with 25 minutes on the clock Park nearly doubled their advantage as he hammered a fiercely-struck free kick just wide.
Chamakh departed on the half-hour mark after a late tackle, with Afobe coming on to replace him. The striker soon had the perfect chance to make a scoring return when Arsenal were awarded a penalty after Arshavin had been felled by Wooton in the area. However his penalty was brilliantly palmed away by the keeper.
The Gunners did double their lead just before half time though, when Arshavin was found by Jenkinson to the right of the area. The Russian appeared to be trying to dig out a cross to the back post but it curled into the net off the post.
Arsenal started the second half just as they had ended the first and within a minute Afobe’s cross to the near post just evaded Park, before Benayoun’s brilliant play set up Arshavin to shoot wide.
Banfield’s side remained firmly in charge and a brilliant bit of interplay saw Oguzhan Ozyakup release Benayoun in the area. The Israeli rounded the keeper but his shot from a tight angle went across the face of goal.
Just before the hour mark they claimed their third as Afobe finished confidently under Wooton to make amends for his earlier missed penalty. Just seven minutes later they had a fourth as Arshavin slotted home from just inside the area following more superb play by Benayoun.
The Israeli was finally rewarded for his magnificent performance in the 87th minute when he dinked the ball over Wooton and into an empty net after being played through by Ozyakup.
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