By Giuseppe Muro at Emirates Stadium
Thierry Henry watched on from the sidelines as his New York Red Bulls set the early pace at the 2011 Emirates Cup with a 1-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain.
The Arsenal legend and all-time record goalscorer, who spent eight glorious years at the Club, stayed on the bench as a first-half strike from Joel Lindpere gave the MLS side three points in this year’s curtain-raiser.
He may not have been on the pitch, but Thierry was given a hero’s welcome as he took his seat in the Red Bulls’ dugout, just in front of the watching Arsenal squad, before the game.
High-fives and hugs with Robin van Persie had a section of Emirates Stadium on their feet and his every move was keenly observed by television cameras throughout. Make no mistake, Henry still has an aura about him.
Although his fondest moments in a red shirt were down the road at Highbury, seeing ‘Titi’ back ‘home’ evoked memories of his unforgettable time at the Club.
They may not have seen their idol in action but for the near-capacity crowd at Emirates, on a sun-drenched afternoon in the capital, this was a nice appetizer for Saturday’s main course between Arsenal and Boca Juniors.
Although the central attraction will have to wait until tomorrow for his appearance on the pitch, there was a return to north London for former Tottenham stalwart Teemu Tainio, who was given the task of protecting the Red Bulls’ back four.
Few teams across Europe have been as active in the transfer market as the Parisians this summer and new signings Jeremy Menez, Salvatore Sirigu and Blaise Matudi were all handed starts by manager Antoine Kombouare.
The opening exchanges were rather muted, with long-range sighters from Mathieu Bodmer and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.
Dane Richards, who was a constant threat on the right of the Red Bulls’ midfield, carved out the MLS side’s first chance after 20 minutes when he forced Sirigu into a smart save at his near post.
The Jamaican winger looked a threat whenever he was on the ball and it was no surprise that he was involved in the build-up that led to the Red Bulls’ opener.
He played a neat give-and-go with Lindpere, who sprung the rather generous PSG offside trap before opening his body and curling an effort into the far corner. Arsenal fans were used to seeing Henry doing exactly that - maybe a skill that the Estonian midfielder has picked up from his illustrious team-mate.
So, first blood Red Bulls and that was pretty much that for a first half with a certain pre-season ‘feel’ about it.
Paris Saint-Germain went in search of parity from the off - Christophe Jallet curling a free-kick onto the roof of the net and Menez bending an effort inches over the bar with Frank Rost rooted to the spot.
Kombouare’s side - dubbed the Manchester City of French football by Arsène Wenger on Friday - continued to create chances and, driven by the ever-willing Menzez, had the better of the second half.
John Rooney, younger brother of Manchester United forward Wayne, was introduced to ironic jeers as the pace eased off - hardly surprising given the time of year - towards the end.
The Red Bulls saw the game out to put the pressure on Arsenal ahead of their opening game against Boca Juniors in the second fixture of the day. An entertaining opening, then, to what promises to be a exciting weekend of football in the north London sunshine.
Paris Saint-Germain - Salvatore Sirigu, Christophe Jallet, Milan Bisevac, Mamadou Sakho, Loick Landre, Jeremy Menez, Mathieu Bodmer (Loris Arnaud, 87), Blaise Matuidi, Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, Mevlut Erding, Peguy Luyindula
Substitutes not used: Alphonse Areola, Marcos Ceara, Granddi Ngoyi, Neeskens Kebano
New York Red Bulls - Frank Rost, Chris Albright (John Rooney, 81), Carlos Mendes, Tim Ream, Roy Miller, Dane Richards, Teemu Tainio (Stephen Keel, 58), Dax McCarty (Matt Kassel, 89), Joel Lindpere, Jan Gunnar Solli, Juan Agudelo (Corey Hertzog, 74)
Substitutes not used: Bouna Coundoul, Tyler Lassiter, Teddy Schneider, Rafa Marquez, Mike Jones
Referee Kenny NgCopyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source