Arsenal have won their first trophy of the new season. Arsène Wenger's side beat Porto 2-1 on Sunday night to secure top spot in the Amsterdam Tournament thanks to two goals from Freddie Ljungberg.
This famous pre-season event awards three points for a win and a point for each goal scored. Arsenal's victory tonight, coupled with the 1-0 win over Ajax on Friday, gave them nine and meant they would finish top of the four-team group, barring a freakish result in the final game between the hosts and Boca Juniors.
There was little 'oommph' about the game in the first half. Although the result would decide who lifted the trophy, it still had a very pre-season feel about it.
It took 12 minutes for a clear opportunity to be carved out. Jose Antonio Reyes fed Thierry Henry who slid a ball across the area to Mathieu Flamini at the far post. The midfielder cut inside well to loosen his marker but hooked his shot wide.
Arsenal would continue to create the better chances until Porto took the lead. But that is not to say the Portuguese were passengers in the game. Jorginho fired over early on and Benni MacCarthy's free-kick was too hot for Jens Lehmann to handle at the first attempted.
However, on the whole, Arsenal had the edge. Alexander Hleb was looking particularly lively on the left flank. In the 26th minute he weaved through and forced a fine low save from Vitor Baia. Eight minutes later Henry crossed from the right for the Belarussian to head goalwards then an offside Flamini volleyed wastefully over from the same source.
It seemed like Arsenal were starting to get on top. But the game was about to change. In the 37th minute, Jorginho sent an inviting, curling cross the far post and Lisandro stole in ahead of Philippe Senderos to convert from close range.
As half time approached the screens within the stadium focussed on the arrival on Diego Maradona. The Argentinean legend was here to support his former team, Boca Juniors, who were set to play Ajax in the next game. He exchanged pleasantries with the Arsenal substitutes after the referee blew for half time and sat on the visitors' bench to have his picture taken once the team left for the dressing room.
Judging by the response of the Amsterdam ArenA crowd when he came on after the break, Dennis Bergkamp is one of the few footballers on a par with Maradona around here.
The Dutchman had already shown some flashes of the old magic by the time Arsenal equalised in the 49th minute. Cole crossed from the left to Henry. The Frenchman's knock down was far too near to Ricardo Costa but his clearance found Ljungberg on the far side of the area and he slanted a sidefoot shot across Baia and into the far corner.
Nine minutes later, the same player put the ball into the same corner to put Arsenal in front. Flamini held the ball up brilliantly on the right side of the area before cutting it back for Ljungberg to sweep home with a sweet first-time shot.
Arsenal could have finished the game four minutes when great footwork from Bergkamp cushioned the ball into the path of the onrushing Pires. Unfortunately he planted his shot straight at the goalkeeper. Baia was the most unpopular man in the arena shortly afterwards when he blocked from Bergkamp at the near post.
Taking the lead seemed to have given Arsenal renewed confidence. The likes of Bergkamp, Henry and Hleb played some super slick football in the minutes that followed. But they could not quite kill off their opponents.
In the latter stages, Jorginho's cross-cum-shot forced Lehmann to backtrack and tip the ball over the bar and the same player drove wide when well placed. However Arsenal held out to win the match and the tournament.
Of course this result means nothing but it did retain Arsenal's 100 percent record in first-team pre-season friendlies - six games, six wins.
The only team that can spoil that now are Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium next Sunday.
- Lauren 72
- Senderos 64
- Pires 80
- Reyes 45
- Bentley 45
- Eboue 72
- Djourou 80
- Toure 64
- Ljungberg 45 Goal! Goal!
- Bergkamp 45