Arsenal kicked-off the Austrian leg of their pre-season programme with a straightforward 5-0 victory at SC Weiz on Tuesday night.
The Fourth Division team crammed 2,500 fervent fans into their two-sided stadium nestling under the pine-topped hills 30 minutes east of Graz. Each and every one was well entertained this evening.
Thierry Henry set-up Mathieu Flamini for the first inside two minutes then added a truly spectacular second shortly afterwards. David Bentley and Henry again made it 4-0 at the break. A much-changed side after the interval could only add a single strike from Dennis Bergkamp.
Arsène Wenger fielded triallist Alex Song throughout. The 17-year-old from Bastia is shorter than his brother Rigobert but still added a muscular presence to central midfield.
Arsenal stamped their authority on the game straight from the start. In the second minute, Henry sent a curling cross from the right flank to the near post. Flamini arrived on cue to volley the ball high into the net.
It was a fine finish but, typically, Henry took only two minutes to top it. Philippe Senderos sent a lofted ball through the centre. The newly-appointed captain controlled it with his thigh, flicked the ball over a defender's head with his right and thundered a dipping volley into the corner with his left. It was a stunning goal from a player who has been putting together a portfolio of them for years.
The FA Cup winners were starting to strut against the semi-pro side from Styria. In the 14th minute the visitors created a classy third. A perceptive backheel from Pires beat the keeper and rolled kindly for Bentley to stroke home into the unguarded net.
On a well-timed challenge from centre back Bruno Friensenbichler prevented Pires going clear for a fourth and Flamini rifled home seconds after the assistant referee had flagged for offside. The simplest chance fell to Bentley in the 25th minute when the ex-Norwich loanee went clear. However keeper Besart Bajraktari stood up well to block.
Weiz roused themselves in the passage that followed. In the 26th minute Gottfried Jantscagi's floating cross-cum-shot forced keeper Mark Howard to backtrack rapidly but the ball fell onto the top of the net.
On the half-hour, the same player supplied Edmond Ahmetaj with perfect curling cross but the Albanian striker dragged his shot wide. Afterwards Ahmetaj grabbed his blonde hair in frustration. It was a great chance, surely one of the clearest that Wiez would create on the night.
They were made to pay seven minutes later when Pires' ball across the face of goal left Henry in splendid isolation at the far post. A fourth was the inevitable result.
Weiz nearly got on the scoresheet just before the break. Rene Poms corner was headed towards goal by Friesenbichler. Alexander Hleb attempted to clear but is header flew goalwards and Howard pulled off a fine save before the ball was snaffled clear.
Typically, Wenger made seven changes at the break within four minutes three of them had gone close. Jose Antonio Reyes hammered the post, Bergkamp dribbled through to score and Seb Larsson has a decent effort saved. Once again it was all Arsenal.
Bentley was continuing to cause trouble with his runs from deep positions and once such foray saw him chip the keeper only to see the ball float onto the top of the net.
In the 68th minute the striker was at it again. Reyes's run down the right channel was rudely interrupted and, from the ensuring free-kick, Bentley's effort was acrobatically turned aside by Bajraktari.
While that was going on, Reyes received treatment. He hobbled into the dressing room a few minutes later and was replaced by Flamini.
Bergkamp fiddled his way through the Weiz defence with 13 minutes left to set up the Frenchman but Bajraktari threw his body in the way once more.
However the final word went to Weiz when Werner Ostermann hammered an angled drive just wide in the last minute.
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