By Rob Kelly at London Colney
A goalkeeping error gifted an Arsenal XI a narrow 1-0 victory over Oman’s Olympic hopefuls at London Colney on Wednesday afternoon.
In driving wind and rain, Gavin Hoyte scored the only goal of the game in the 73rd minute. But it owed more to the poor handling of the Oman goalkeeper, who dived on the ball but allowed it to slip under his body and trickle over the line.
The score was a fair reflection of the game though after the hosts dominated against Paul Le Guen’s side and even missed a first-half penalty from Conor Henderson.
It was a useful run-out for the hosts against an Oman side gearing up for their Olympic qualification play-off match against Senegal at the Ricoh Arena on Monday.
Neil Banfield named a strong Arsenal XI line-up with the likes of Carl Jenkinson, Sebastien Squillaci, Abou Diaby, Ju Young Park and Marouane Chamakh all included.
Within five minutes of kick off, the conditions turned nasty as a biting wind was soon accompanied by near torrential rain which lasted for the entire first half.
It made life difficult for the players, but the Gunners did not let it affect them as they made the early running, Oguzhan Ozyakup firing over from the edge of the box in the fifth minute.
Squillaci came close moments later when he met Ozyakup’s corner with a powerful header, but the ball flew inches over the Oman bar.
Banfield’s side were the dominant force and again nearly grabbed the lead in the 18th minute when Henderson latched on to a Thomas Eisfield cross. The cultured midfielder - back after eight months out with a knee injury - cut back inside his marker and curled a shot towards the top corner, but his goalbound effort was well saved.
Eisfield went close just before the half-hour mark with a close-range effort, before the Gunners were handed a golden opportunity to extend their lead from the penalty spot right on half-time.
The spot kick was awarded after Ozyakup was felled in the area following a lightning-fast counter-attack, but Henderson saw his penalty brilliantly palmed away by the jubilant visiting keeper.
The game lost some of its urgency in the second half, but substitute goalkeeper James Shea had to be alert in the 50th minute to beat away a vicious long-range strike.
Finally the deadlock was broken when, in the 73rd minute, Hoyte broke forward from the back and struck a powerful shot at goal. The Oman substitute goalkeeper seemed to have it covered, but the ball squirmed out of his grasp and dropped over the line.
Eisfield had half a chance to extend the Gunners’ advantage soon afterwards when he worked his way into the box, but the Oman keeper partially redeemed himself by snatching the ball off the teenager’s feet.
That was the final chance of a low-key affair as the Arsenal XI comfortably saw out their victory.
Arsenal XI: Martinez (Shea 45), Jenkinson (Neita 60), Squillaci (Hoyte 45), Miquel (Boateng 45), Meade, Eisfeld, Ozyakup, Henderson, Diaby (Rees 45), Chamakh (Roberts 45), Park (Ebecilio 45).Copyright 2016 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