Arsenal 2 Sunderland 3: A non-event, Highbury-style.

Last updated : 07 November 2002 By Brian Dawes

Jeffers on target again
The Youth team have figured prominently in recent seasons but this in itself also indicates just how seriously this third rated Trophy is taken these days. The arguments for and against such policies still continue but generally it's come to be accepted that the big clubs, particularly those involved in the big European competitions don't bother too seriously with the Worthless. Playing the youths against lesser sides is fine, but putting the lesser lights out against Premiership teams sometimes has its pitfalls. Tonight both teams fielded reserve sides, although ours showed more footballing ability theirs showed a willingness to battle, at least they did after the break.

We can be pretty sure that no matter what lip service is paid to the competition Arsenal don't actually give a toss about the Worthless, whilst both the Scum and Bluescum will be busting a gut, as usual, to get to the Millennium Stadium by the easy route. Tonight we could be pretty sure that the first choice eleven, if anyone knows what it is, wouldn't feature in the match to any large degree. And so it was.

As it happened Robert Pires (7) was to get a work out, well in the second half he did because he tried to play standing still footie wide on the left in the first half. What he offered was too little too late and came when he moved inside. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (16) commenced his comeback trail with a moderate performance in central midfield and a very strong penalty claim late on. Francis Jeffers (9) got an all too rare starting slot and he worked quite well but would have been found in space more often had he been assisted by the likes of Dennis Bergkamp.

Kanu (25) looked classy in patches but when the chips were down he couldn't produce the killer ball late on. Kolo Toure (28) playing at left back looked strong and composed early on but he too was knocked off the ball after the break. As usual Kolo ended up in their box for long spells. Oleg Luzhny (22) became the first Ukrainian to captain Arsenal tonight, he can't maintain a regular starting slot but tonight he did ok, although he was far from being an inspiring skipper.

Others in the line were looking to impress the manager but on this form the first team squad will be none too worried by their progress. Sebastian Svard (31) our promising young Danish midfield player looked the part but lacked the heavy power play required against Premiership midfields. I liked what I saw though. Jermaine Pennant (21) who should by now be itching to break through to the first team had a fits and starts sort of match, not aided by some overly powerful balls blasted at him in a wide right position. Stathis Tavlaridis (27) our young cultured Greek defender, took a bit of a battering after being
seemingly in control before the break.

Robert & Gio - Good to see them both back
Stuart Taylor (13) a great keeper for the future had more pressure from his own defenders in the first half than from the opposition. Igors Stepanovs (26) our Latvian centre back who was producing the goods before injury at Villa Park last season was below par tonight. Igors started well enough, had a great own goal attempt before the break, but was done all ends up on numerous occasions after half time.

Moritz Volz (29) had a nervous match when he arrived on as a substitute. Our speedy left winger Jerome Thomas (47), back from a loan spell with QPR where he was getting rave reviews last season, also made it on as a sub and hit one beautiful cross. Ryan Garry (40) a defender from Hornchurch who made rapid progress last season only got as far as warming up. While Steven Sidwell (45) and Rami Shaaban (24) remained rooted to the bench.

The pitiful 19,059 crowd were only impressive in the Sunderland section. Elsewhere the rather echoing attempts to lift the team didn't really come close. Season ticket holders stayed away in droves. As the match itself didn't warrant a full report I'll restrict myself to telling you about the goals.

Kanu worked well to find Gio almost on their byeline and after some good work by Gio our Dutchman cut the ball back to Bob who was loitering just outside the area. Pires' well-struck first time shot from Gio's perfectly weighted pass flew into the net just inside the post to make it 1-0.

Kanu was again fouled but played on to manufacture the perfect ball to Jeffers. Francis who was on the shoulder of the last defender timed his run to perfection, drew the keeper and slipped it past him with his left peg. 2-0.

Sunderland had a corner and flicked on a header at the near post, which Igors hooked clear. In less than a minute they had another corner, used the same routine but this time the header was flicked on to a seemingly unmarked Kyle who headed home. 2-1

Kanu was axed on the half-way line and a tosser by the name of Mr A Wiley failed to notice that our Nigerian was injured by a clumsy oaf whipping his legs away. While we all ranted at the useless ref they scored with another header, this time from Marcus Stewart 2-2.

Another deep cross from the cultured route-one school of the Wilkinson football handbook and this time Darren Williams scored with a header 2-3. We huffed and puffed, they defended and that was it. Three goals conceded from headers against a very moderate team who showed nothing before the break and not a lot after it, apart from the willingness to battle for the ball and keep giving it 100%. A lesson in itself I'd say.