By Richard Clarke
Goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Nacer Barazite helped Arsenal to a comfortable 2-0 victory at Barnet on Saturday as Arsène Wenger's side got their pre-season campaign underway.
The Emirates Stadium side controlled the game virtually from start to finish and were buoyed by goals in each half. Adebayor screwed home a shot in the 18th minute and Barazite completed the scoring just past the hour with a thunderbolt from distance.
Denilson was stretchered off in pain just before the goal but later his injury was reported to be minor.
Otherwise this was the most satisfying - and friendly - of friendlies.
Arsenal named a relatively strong side for this now traditional game against the side who play host to the Club's Reserve fixtures. In fact, Wenger's starting XI would not have looked out of place in the Carling Cup or even FA Cup. Kolo Toure captained the team and the front pairing, fit-again Robin van Persie and Adebayor, may well be employed when Fulham visit Emirates Stadium on August 12. Alex Song was given a run out at centre back and 17-year-old Mark Randall started on the left side of midfield.
New signing Eduardo was present but only in the stands. Debutants Havard Nordveit and Lukasz Fabianski were named on the bench. There was also a first run-out for the new white away kit.
Barnet included a couple of former Arsenal professionals in their line-up - Nicky Nicolau and Adam Birchall. The Bees also named Richard Evans on the bench. The doctor, in his "late 40s" and from Wembley, had paid £10,000 for the privilege of coming on during that latter stages of the game.
Crowd congestion meant there was a five-minute delay to the kick-off. It did nothing to dampen the party atmosphere. However the opening stages were high on intensity yet low on chances.
Jason Puncheon looked dangerous cutting in from the Barnet left and Robin van Persie fired in a couple of pot-shots. Adebayor got the glimpse of an opening only to be denied by Ismail Yakubu. That was the sum result of the first quarter-hour.
The opening goal arrived in the 18th minute. Van Persie surprised the Barnet defence with a low corner to Walcott at the near post. He clipped a cross to the far side where Adebayor hooked home a half-volley through a crowded area. On the balance of play it was hard on the home side.
Barnet had an excellent chance to equalise two minutes later when a cute header from Liam Hatch sent Puncheon clear in the left-hand channel. Almunia was out quickly to smother the shot.
The game was opening up. Van Persie's right-wing free-kick was nodded on by Barnet striker Liam Hatch and a sliding Adebayor just failed to convert at the far post. Then, in the 25th minute, Walcott's deep cross was met by the head of Van Persie. The ball beat the keeper, hit the bar and bounced down but, by then, the referee had blown for offside.
Unsurprisingly given that this was the first pre-season friendly, the pace could not be maintained. Before half time, Denilson let fly from distance and Gael Clichy charged down a clearance from keeper Lee Harrison only for the ball to trickle wide.
Barnet were nearly rewarded for a half of genuine endeavour when Hatch poked a shot goalwards as Song and Almunia dithered. Again the chance came to nothing.
Arsenal made six changes at the break and Barnet made five. Often wholesale substitutions unsettle a game however in this instance they seemed to improve it. Walcott made one penetrative run in the opening minutes then Kieron Gibbs flicked wide from Adebayor's knock back.
In the 53rd minute, Flamini clipped a perceptive ball to the Togolese striker on the edge of the area. He had plenty of time and the ball was sitting up nicely, however he dragged his shot wide.
A couple of minutes later, Denilson came off worse in a challenge with Puncheon and, after lengthy treatment, was stretchered off. Henri Lansbury replaced him. Later, it was announced over the tannoy that the injury was not serious.
Arsenal were now looking to seal the victory. Adebayor failed to connect with an inviting cross from Walcott then, in the 66th minute, Barazite doubled the advantage with a rocket shot into the far corner of the net.
There seemed little danger when the former Dutch youth international collected the ball in the right-hand channel. But his fierce drive flew into the net, leaving Harrison helpless.
The goal killed the game as a contest. Traore arrowed a shot towards the top corner but substitute keeper Dave Blackmore palmed the ball aside. In the dying minutes, the dangerous Puncheon whistled a rising drive past the angle of post and bar.
Dr Evans made his appearance late on, much to the amusement of the crowd. He seemed to enjoy his moment - as did the crowd of 5,091.
Referee: M Russell
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