By Rob Kelly at the National Stadium, Bukit Jalil
Late goals from Thomas Eisfeld and Chuks Aneke secured victory for Arsenal in the opening game of their tour against a dogged, dangerous Malaysia XI side.
Arsène Wenger’s side dominated possession and twice came close in the first half through Andre Santos. But right on the stroke of the interval they fell behind to a superb Mohamad Azmi Muslim strike from the edge of the area.
A much-changed Arsenal side continued to press after the restart, but found the hosts tough to break down. But Eisfeld’s 87th-minute strike restored parity, before Aneke claimed the winner with a deflected effort.
It was an exciting end to an entertaining game in Kuala Lumpur, with the Gunners delighting their passionate supporters as they waved goodbye to Malaysia.
Malaysia XI coach Datuk K. Rajogopal, meanwhile, had promised an improved showing after a 4-0 defeat to the Gunners in the corresponding fixture last summer. And the thousands of supporters inside the stadium gave his side a rapturous welcome.
Next it was the tourists, and how the fans raised the roof when they emerged into the dense humidity of the Kuala Lumpur night. Two nights after landing to a stunning welcome from Malaysia - and two days of coaching clinics, fan parties and open training sessions - the Arsenal players were ready for action.
The incessant chorus of vuvuzelas and horns from a frenetic, frenzied crowd helped create an intense atmosphere as kick off arrived. This is what they were here for, to watch their heroes doing what they do best - but it was the hosts who settled first.
The Malaysia XI may not have been the main attraction, but they were determined to show they were not here to merely make up the numbers - and within three minutes Safiq Bin Rahim tried an ambitious lob from fully 40 yards.
Arsenal soon hit their stride, though, with Marouane Chamakh testing Mohd Farizal Marlias with a volley from just inside the area, before Vermaelen sliced a scissors kick over the bar.
Wenger’s side dominated possession during the first half, but the humidity and a difficult playing surface made it tough to demonstrate their slick passing game.
Santos, who had switched to the right side of the front three, was presented with a fine opportunity just after the half-hour mark. Francis Coquelin pounced on a misplaced pass and played in the Brazilian who, after a neat one-two with Chamakh, screwed his effort wide.
It was an encouraging moment for Arsenal, but the hosts had an opportunity themselves moments later as Azamuddin Mohd Akil tested Vito Mannone with a well-struck drive from 20 yards.
Santos was presented with another clear-cut chance in the 39th minute when he pounced on a mistake and went clear in the box, but his effort was well saved by Mohd Farizal Marlias.
But back came this spirited, dogged Malaysia XI side with Mohd Safee Bin Mohd Sali coming perilously close to opening the scoring with a fierce drive that was pushed wide by an alert Mannone. It was fast, frenetic stuff and superb entertainment for the Malaysian fans packed into this impressive stadium.
An entertaining game deserved a goal, and when it came it was worth the wait for those Malaysians watching on. The hosts had been a threat, and with the half entering injury time Muslim had time on the edge of the area and arrowed a shot into the top right-hand corner. It was nothing short of top class.
It was all change for Arsenal at the interval - apart from Mannone - as Wenger shuffled his pack, blooding youngsters such as Aneke, Nico Yennaris and Ignasi Miquel. Two of the more senior statesmen, Theo Walcott and Alex Song, were also thrown into action as Arsenal went in search of an equaliser.
But the hosts remained a threat themselves and Mohd Safee Bin Mohd Sali came close to doubling their advantage after working his way into the box and testing Mannone with a firm effort.
Benik Afobe was presented with a glorious chance to restore parity in the 66th minute as Song released him down the middle with an incisive through-ball. The young striker was in acres of space but his left-footed effort was well blocked by the onrushing goalkeeper.
Arsenal were pressing and probing but to no avail, and Afobe had another half-chance in the 81st minute but sliced his close-range effort over the bar.
But finally the equaliser came when, in the 87th minute, Yennaris broke into the box on the right flank and cut the ball back for Eisfeld to slot home confidently.
But there was still more to come and moments later Aneke took aim from outside the area and saw his shot strike the defender and bounce up over the keeper and into the net.
A fitting finale to a fascinating contest.
- Vermaelen (C) 45
- Djourou 45
- Jenkinson 45
- Gibbs 45
- Arteta 45
- Diaby 45
- Santos 45
- Coquelin 45
- Gervinho 45
- Chamakh 45
- Yennaris 45
- Bartley 45
- Miquel 45
- Song 45
- Miyaichi 45
- Eastmond 45
- Eisfeld 80 Goal!
- Oxlade-Chamberlain 45
- Aneke 45 Goal!
- Walcott 80 45
- Afobe 45
- Umar 71
- Razak 71
- Kunanlan 80
- Muslim 84 Goal!
- Shaari 36
- Akil 36
- Rahim (C)
- Talaha 69
- Sali 80
- Tajudin 71
- Jasuli 71
- Zambri 69
- Samah 80 36
- Robbat 36
- Ali 80
- Bakhtiar 80
- Rahman 84
- Samsudin 80