Date:Tuesday April 20 2010
The depth of Portsmouth's injury crisis was highlighted again at Westleigh Park last night, when even a youthful reserve side could only field 4 substitutes. Depleted of recent graduates Lenny Sowah and Joel Ward, only Matt Ritchie in the starting line up could boast a first team appearance. The 20 year old's recent rise from the reserves however will surely give those playing alongside him plenty of incentive to perform - a good game here could propel them on to a premier league start, or even a place on the bench at Wembley should the Fratton Park physio room get any more occupants.
The team's inexperience soon manifested itself however, when a lack of communication between centre backs Ryan Perry and Luke Wilkinson allowed Arsenal's Benik Afobe to run on to a bouncing ball in the box, and it was only an on-the-ball Liam O'Brien coming out to smother the ball that prevented Pompey conceding an embarrassing goal.
No sooner had the 18 year old keeper saved Portsmouth from conceding though, he was well beaten by an unsaveable 25 yard effort into the top left corner from Chuks Aneke - Pompey 0, Arsenal 1.
Portsmouth had to wait nearly half an hour for their first real test on James Shea's Arsenal goal, when a good cross from Gael Nlundulu found Matt Ritchie at the edge of the area, but the resulting shot was cleared off the line.
Despite a very watchable Arsenal team playing in an attacking 4-3-3 formation, Portsmouth continued up front with some flair of their own. Nadir Ciftci, cutting a lone shadow up front as Portsmouth's only striker, made a chance out of nothing on 40 minutes. Flicking the ball over his head, he turned his marker well and went clean through on goal, though perhaps shot too early, giving the keeper an easy save.
Anything Portsmouth could do though, Arsenal could do better -another superb bit of individual skill this time found the goal, as Nacir Barazite capped what was already an excellent performance with a 30-yard screamer, leaving O'Brien hopeless once again. Pompey 0, Arsenal 2.
Portsmouth's best chance of a reply came after the break, once again from a Ciftci and Nlundulu link up - the striker cleverly beat his man before playing in the pacy winger, who easily beat the right back to the ball. A poor first touch left him too wide to really exploit the opportunity however, and Arsenal's Shea saw it out for a corner.
Come the last ten minutes, Arsenal's reserves looked rather more comfortable with their 2-0 lead than the first team had a day earlier, still on the attack. A long ball up to Luke Freeman was brilliantly taken down on the volley, and his first time effort required a good save from O'Brien to keep it at two.
Moments later though Arsenal substitute Jernade Meade completed the scoring, cutting inside and finishing from a tight angle - Pompey 0, Arsenal 3 at full time.
Having made the step up to Premier League football with his first few appearances for the first team this week, it was a disappointing game for Matt Ritchie. He was played out of the game by Arsenal's efficient right back Sead Harjovic, and was never allowed any time on the ball.
Rather more impressive was right winger Gael Nlundulu. The 17 year old Frenchman was at the centre of every Portsmouth attack, offering options on both sides of the pitch and putting in some clever balls. His pace was a constant problem for what was a very solid looking Arsenal back 4 - a useful skill to have whatever level you play at.
With Portsmouth seemingly open to giving young players time on the pitch in their final few Premier League games, he could count himself somewhat unlucky if he doesn't make his full debut against Bolton on Saturday having had such an impressive game here. With no natural right wingers in the Portsmouth squad at all, let alone available, he could even make the step up more regularly next year if he continues to impress.
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Date:Tuesday April 20 2010
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