Report: Arsenal 2-1 Atletico Madrid
Of all matches the Emirates Stadium has seen to date, today’s friendly affair had arguably one of the most frantic finales.
The Gunners had been huffing and puffing, and Arshavin looked to have secured a winner late on before Atletico unleashed a stunning equalizer only for Arsenal’s Russian to settle matters with a second at the death.
All in the space of four minutes.
Wenger stuck to his words at Friday’s press-conference. Tomas Rosicky made his first appearance at Arsenal’s home since limping against Newcastle in January 2008.
Young goalkeeper Vito Mannone kept his place and so did Eboue, Gallas, Djourou, Traore, Denilson, Van Persie and Bendtner. Clichy was available on a bench packed with household names in Fabregas, Eduardo, Arshavin, Song and Wilshere.
Van Persie, Ramsey and particularly Rosicky all impressed in attack but Arsenal had nothing other than Eboue’s ferocious effort right from the edge of the box to show for their first-half efforts.
The Ivorian, along with Rosicky and Traore were replaced after the interval by Clichy, Wilshere and Merida.
Arsenal would begin their traditional second-half command with chance after chance. A goal had been coming and when Van Persie made a clever flick right from point blank range, it should have landed home only for Heitinga’s clearance off the line to deny.
Still, Wenger’s men were smelling blood and Wilshere was in the thick of the action. Bednter could have done better with a cross from the English prodigy, but fizzled wide.
Atletico made a rare attempt when Rodriguez blasted a shot from long range which Mannone could only meet with an awkward punch. Arsenal resumed fire works and Ramsey could only force a save from the keeper after been teed up by Wilshere with time and space to shoot.
The Welsh man’s participation would end there as Fabregas replaced him. Arsenal’s skipper was joined by Eduardo and Arshavin who came on for Van Perise and Bendtner respectively.
Ironically, it was Atletico who would come closer to finding the winner. Rodriguez found some leeway on the right and could have tested Mannone better than hitting a low effort wide off the far post.
Arsenal’s young stopper would be tested again and he nearly failed this time. Borja Baston sent in a thunderous effort from far out and Mannone almost saw his wobbled save travel into the net.
But Arsenal would get the breakthrough they deserved on 86 minutes when Arshavin clinically volleyed in Fabregas’ cross. The Gunners’ defense was always vulnerable and Atletico broke the offside trap immediately after as Pacecho coolly beat Mannone for a shocking leveller.
Regrets were written all over every Arsenal player’s face, but it was not really back to square one.
Arshavin had done it before and he could do it again.
And so, the talismanic Russian received a long pass, raced off the goalkeeper with his first touch and with the ball bound to end up a goal kick, Arshavin squeezed it into the net from a seemingly impossible angle.
Poise, patience and brilliance had done the talk.