By Chris Harris in Vienna
Nicklas Bendtner, Robin van Persie and Aaron Ramsey scored two apiece as Arsenal kicked off their mini-European tour with a comfortable victory over SC Columbia.
Arsène Wenger’s side did suffer a minor embarrassment when a freakish goal from Patrick Lehner gave the amateurs a shock first-half lead.
That delighted a record crowd of 6,900 at the Schwarzlackenau Stadium but it merely stung Arsenal into action. Bendtner equalised within a minute and grabbed another after Ramsey had fired the visitors ahead.
Van Persie slotted home a penalty early in the second half and nodded in Bacary Sagna’s cross to make it five. William Gallas got in on the act before the end and Ramsey fired in late on to round off another useful workout.
In truth this was a straightforward assignment against vastly inferior opponents. But Wenger’s men will slowly crank up the intensity as they put the building blocks in place for the new campaign. Their next stop is just across the border in Hungary for Monday’s friendly at Szombathelyi.
The build-up to this game was dominated by the news that Samir Nasri will be out for up to three months after fracturing his right fibula in training. It is a substantial blow to Arsenal even if the return of Tomas Rosicky will compensate for his loss.
The Czech was rested for this game after making his long-awaited comeback at Barnet on Saturday but we did get a first glimpse of Emmanuel Eboue, Denilson, Abou Diaby, Ramsey and Bendtner this summer. They made the starting line-up while Kolo Toure, Bacary Sagna, Van Persie and Alex Song were named on the bench. Armand Traore and Philippe Senderos, back from season-long loan spells, were also among the substitutes.
The biggest name on the SC Columbia teamsheet was their 44-year-old free-kick specialist Julius Simon - although he would not get a chance to show off his party trick on this occasion. The Slovakia international scored 10 times last season as his team finished halfway up the Austrian Fourth Division.
The amateurs from the Floridsdorf district of Vienna weren’t expected to trouble their illustrious visitors but that didn’t stop the locals packing out the Schwarzlackenau Stadium – with the help of a small but boisterous Arsenal contingent. Beer and music were in plentiful supply as a festival atmosphere kicked in well before kick-off.
As expected the game was played almost exclusively in the Austrians’ half but Arsenal’s radar was off in the first half-hour or so.
Andrey Arshavin slotted wide after two minutes, Bendtner followed suit shortly afterwards, Ramsey also missed the target from just outside the box and Thomas Vermaelen squandered a decent chance for his first Arsenal goal, lashing a shot wide after Ramsey’s clever chip had fallen for him eight yards out.
Meanwhile, Gerhard Taschwer earned his corn in the Columbia goal. The keeper pushed away Diaby’s fierce shot at his near post and denied the Frenchman again when he tried his luck from long range.
Despite the pedestrian pace of what was essentially a training exercise, it seemed a matter of time before Arsenal broke the deadlock. Then Columbia raised the biggest cheer of the evening with a goal completely against the run of play.
It was a farcical one from Arsenal’s perspective. Mikael Silvestre played the ball back to Almunia but the Spaniard’s first touch was slightly heavy. As Lehner slid in, Almunia’s attempted clearance ricocheted off the striker and into the net.
Suitably embarrassed, Arsenal were stung into action. Within a minute they were level as Diaby charged down the right channel and squared the ball for Bendtner to tap into the roof of the net.
The scoreline soon had a more predictable look to it. Within three minutes of the Dane’s equaliser, Ramsey evaded a challenge on the edge of the Columbia box and slammed a shot into the bottom corner.
Four minutes later, Bendtner doubled his own tally. Running from deep, the striker flicked the ball to Ramsey and then collected the return pass inside the box before jinking past Taschwer and rolling the ball into the net.
It was a sign that Arsenal could pick up the pace at will.
Wenger made eight changes at the break with Senderos deployed in a defensive midfield role – quite possibly a first for the Swiss. And two of those substitutes linked up for Arsenal’s fourth goal as Traore’s cross was handled and Van Persie fired home from the spot.
The Dutchman so nearly set up a fifth for Denilson on the hour mark but, once again, Taschwer did well, rushing out to block the Brazilian’s low shot.
Wilshere and Ramsey returned to the fray with 20 minutes to go as Arshavin and Eboue were given a breather. Regardless of their personnel, Arsenal kept the scoreboard ticking over.
First Van Persie buried a header from Sagna’s right-wing cross and Gallas did likewise with 14 minutes remaining. Then Ramsey rounded things off with a fizzing shot which flew in off the post.
- Almunia 46
- Silvestre 46
- Vermaelen 46
- Djourou 46
- Wilshere 46
- Ramsey 46 Goal! Goal!
- Diaby 46
- Bendtner 46 Goal! Goal!
- Gallas 46 Goal!
- Song 46
- Szczesny 46
- Sagna 46
- Traore 46
- Toure 46
- Senderos 46
- Persie 46 Goal! Goal!
- Taschwer 79
- Lehner 46 Goal!
- Lipovski 79
- Gunel 46