By Joe Brewin at Underhill
Stephen Dobbie’s brilliant late free-kick secured Swansea Reserves a share of the spoils in an entertaining encounter at Underhill.
Dobbie struck in the dying moments to claim a draw for the Welsh outfit after victory for Neil Banfield’s Arsenal side seemed all but guaranteed.
Luke Freeman had put the Gunners ahead in the 14th minute, only for Banfield’s side to be pegged back midway through the half through Kurtis March’s strike.
The Arsenal youngsters regrouped and it was little surprise when the brilliant Chuks Aneke rose highest to head home from Oguzhan Ozyakup’s corner just before the break.
Dobbie had the final word but Aneke, having made his Carling Cup debut against Shrewsbury, will stay in Arsene Wenger's thoughts after a display like this.
Aneke is probably one of the first names on Banfield's team sheet and the second string manager handed starts to Zak Ansah and Ryo on the wings for this fixture, while Sead Hajrovic started the game at right back with Nico Yennaris on international duty for England Under-19s.
Ignasi Miquel returned as captain at the heart of defence after missing out through injury last week, and Martin Angha featured at an unfamiliar left back slot.
Opponents Swansea brought a handful of first-team contenders to north London with Dobbie, Thomas Butler and Fede Bessone the standout names on the team sheet.
The experienced Gerhard Tremmel, signed from Red Bull Salzburg in the summer, started between the posts for the Swans.
The opening exchanges proved quiet. Swansea arrived with the obvious intention to play football but, despite a useful opening, they struggled to combat the Gunners’ threat in midfield.
Banfield’s men took time to settle into the match but opportunities soon arose. Ozyakup carved out the first chance of the game when he weaved his way towards goal and forced a smart stop from Tremmel.
Just moments later the young Gunners had their goal. Ryo was allowed to stretch his legs down the left wing to fire in a low cross. The initial attempt was blocked but Freeman was on hand to react quickest and poke home the rebound.
The Gunners could have had a second almost immediately after when Sanchez Watt bore down on goal and fired an effort narrowly wide of the far post.
As it was, Banfield’s side continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession in the first period as they set about scoring a second against the Welsh outfit.
Aneke was pulling the strings in midfield with an eye-catching display and the powerful 18-year-old quickly became a thorn in the Swansea ranks as the half wore on.
The youngsters did not have things all their own way, of course. Slowly but surely Alan Curtis’ side crept back into the match and took an opportunity against the run of play.
Last season’s play-off hero Dobbie skipped to the byline to deliver his cross but the first effort was well blocked. March, however, was on hand to finish off on the rebound for an almost carbon copy of the game’s opener.
Banfield’s side restored their lead five minutes before the break through the mercurial Aneke. The midfielder rose highest from Ozyakup’s left-wing corner to head Arsenal back in the lead. The perfect time to score and no less than they deserved for their efforts.
The second period began in a similar vein to the first. Dobbie’s early free-kick caused danger to the Gunners backline but Angha was there to clear after suggestions of handball were waved away by the referee.
It was Arsenal that crafted the half’s first menacing opportunity, however, and should have taken their tally to three. Great work from Watt saw the ball worked wide to Ansah but Tremmel tipped over the young winger’s effort brilliantly. Anywhere else and it may have been a different story.
Arsenal had penalty appeals of their own waved away in the 65th minute when Ryo went down under a challenge from Daniel Alfei in the box. Swansea raced up the other end with the lively Dobbie but his darting run was blocked by Aneke.
Back came the home side. First Ozyakup saw his dipping free-kick flash just wide of goal before Freeman’s venomous strike was blocked superbly before it could reach Tremmel.
Banfield’s side should have put the game beyond doubt 10 minutes before the end when Watt fired straight at the German stopper - and they were made to pay in the dying embers of the game when Swansea grabbed their leveller.
Substitute Jandir Zola was fouled 30 yards from goal to set up a nervy set-piece for the Gunners. And sure enough it was Dobbie who stepped up to deliver a sizzling free-kick which left Martinez with little chance.
The point sees Arsenal extend their lead at the top of the Reserve League South, with closest rivals West Brom playing at Wolves on Tuesday night.
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