Arsenal kicked off their Premier Reserve League campaign with a 2-1 win over Manchester United this evening. Goals from Sanchez Watt and Chuks Aneke were sandwiched between a Mame Diouf header, as the young Gunners defeated a strong United lineup.
The visitors boasted the likes of Tomasz Kuszczak, Darron Gibson, Darren Fletcher, Mame Diouf and Paul Pogba, but Neil Banfield responded by calling upon first-teamers Vito Mannone, Armand Traoré and Benik Afobe, all of whom have been involved in Champions League training this week.
ARSENAL: Mannone; Yennaris, Boateng, Miquel, Traoré; Özyakup, Ebecilio, Aneke; Watt, Afobe, Freeman.
Arsenal are United are among the early favourites to win the Premier Reserve League title this season, and as such, both sides began with real pace and vigour.
But it was the hosts who carved out the first real chance of the game, when Ebecilio collected Watt’s flick but could only lash the ball straight at Kuszczak. United hit back when Cole’s right wing cross was headed inches wide by Diouf, but the game lost some of its edge when Traoré and then Afobe both left the field with groin injuries.
However, despite Banfield having to reshuffle the setup, Arsenal stuck first. Some clever foot work from Freeman allowed him space to roll the ball through for Watt, and the former Leeds United loanee fired into the roof off the net for 1-0. The Gunners grew in confidence and began to find their feet, but with half time approaching, United levelled. Pogba’s quick feet saw him get away from Meade, and Diouf was on hand to fire home the resulting cross 1-1.
Mannone made two quick fire saves on the cusp of half time, but the two sides were level at the break.
Some words of wisdom from the United coaching staff seemed to work wonders, as the visitors returned with real threat. Mannone made a solid save from a smart turn and shot by Diouf, before Fryers saw a free-kick go inches over.
The fixture then seemed destined to be a draw, but up stepped Chuks Aneke. The powerful central midfielder had been frustrated by Gibson and Fletcher for most of the evening, but with 15 minutes left, he burst from the centre of the park and as Fryers backed off, Aneke’s lashed shot took a deflection and wrong-footed Kuszczak. 2-1.
Arsenal weathered some strong United pressure in the closing stages, to seal three points and notable win, to start the season in style.