Post-Match Report

Emirates Cup: Arsenal 1-1 AC Milan - Report

AC Milan -

Emirates Stadium
Emirates Cup
Emirates Cup
1 1
  AC Milan
AC Milan

By Chris Harris

Marouane Chamakh started life at Emirates Stadium with a goal as Arsenal started the Emirates Cup with a draw.

The Moroccan striker won over his new fans with a cool finish after 36 minutes following fine work from Andrey Arshavin, but it was not enough to see off AC Milan in an entertaining encounter.

Alexandre Pato headed an equaliser with 13 minutes left to leave the tournament finely poised at the end of day one.

Teams are awarded an extra point for each goal in this format so Celtic and Olympique Lyonnais lead the way with three apiece after a 2-2 draw in the opening game. Arsenal and Milan are tucked in behind with two points each.

But the stage is set for a fitting finale on Sunday. The French and Italian clubs meet before Arsenal take on Celtic in a game which will decide who gets to practice lifting a trophy before the serious stuff starts.

This tournament has become a staple of Arsenal's pre-season diet and the fans have clearly taken it to their hearts - Emirates Stadium was packed to the rafters for Saturday's main attraction.

Most of them were here to catch a glimpse of new signings Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny and they would not be disappointed. Both were named in a forward-thinking line-up which also featured Samir Nasri, Jack Wilshere, Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky.

For Arsenal's fans this was a chance to greet old friends, show off new colours and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere before the pressure games come thick and fast. That said, there's still a trophy to be won and Arsenal's players set about their task with purpose.

They were neat and tidy from the off with Nasri and Wilshere to the fore. And both new boys earned early ripples of applause: Chamakh for a driving run in the right channel and some clever hold-up play, Koscielny for his anticipation and assured distribution.

Chamakh and Rosicky made inroads down the right in the opening exchanges but Kieran Gibbs' early inroads down the left looked more likely to do damage.

Arshavin picked out a Gibbs overlap in the ninth minute but his clipped cross just eluded Wilshere. The left back got into an identical position moments later and this time his cross ricocheted off a defender and fell to Arshavin on the edge of the box. The Russian mishit his half-volley and the ball rolled harmlessly wide.

Gibbs was pretty handy in the other box too.

Mathieu Flamini, back at the Emirates in Milan's colours two years after leaving London, was determined to make an impression. His first major contribution was a burst down the left but his dangerous cross was hacked away by Gibbs.

Flamini was more enforcer than creator in his Arsenal days but he wasn't afraid to go forward here. He met a dipping ball on the edge of the box with a venomous volley that took a wicked deflection off Koscielny and flew against the crossbar with Lukasz Fabianski well beaten. Then Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal's captain in the absence of Cesc Fabregas, had to be alert to block another shot from Flamini after a driving run from left to right.

Vermaelen made his presence felt at the other end as well. In the 19th minute the Belgian climbed high at the near post to flick a header goalwards from Nasri's left-wing corner. Christian Abbiati brilliantly tipped away that effort and watched another Vermaelen thud wide seconds later.

Arsenal went into their shells after that but, nine minutes before the break, they woke up in style.

Arshavin picked up possession 40 yards from goal, close to the left touchline, and surged infield, shrugging off a strong challenge from Gennaro Gattuso before slipping a path to Chamakh to apply a slide-rule finish from 12 yards.

The Moroccan striker couldn't wipe the smile from his face as he celebrated his first goal on English soil. He already looks like a shrewd piece of business and the fans love him already.

Rosicky should have made it two just before the interval, hitting the keeper from close range after Nasri's excellent footwork had fashioned a chance. But Milan reminded all and sundry of their latent threat when Pato found a yard of space inside Emmanuel Eboue and curved a spectacular effort inches over the bar.

The second half was punctuated by substitutions with three as the teams emerged from the tunnel - Theo Walcott, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy.

The replacements were immediately into the action.

First Sagna surged down the right and crossed low for Wilshere, arriving in the six-yard box. A fine block denied the teenager and a similar challenge thwarted Arshavin when Walcott picked out the Russian after a pacy burst into the box.

Flamini was at it again at the other end, spearing a volley straight at Fabianski from a narrow angle. The home fans weren't sure whether to applaud or jeer the Frenchman at the start of the game but by now he was clearly the ‘pantomime villain'.

Milan kept Arsenal on their toes but the home side looked more likely to extend their lead than relinquish it.

They nearly had a second on the hour mark after Chamakh drove down the left and found Arshavin inside the box with an audacious drag-back. The Russian's shot was blocked and the rebound just eluded the onrushing Wilshere.

Wenger brought on three more substitutes: Carlos Vela, Johan Djourou and Mark Randall. And the Mexican striker caught the eye with 18 minutes left, drifting past one defender and nutmegging another before curling a shot just over.

Chamakh left the field to a standing ovation and, at that point, he looked like the matchwinner. But Milan levelled four minutes after he departed the scene.

It was a soft goal from Arsenal's perspective: Clarence Seedorf curled in a free-kick from the left, Pato was allowed to run free and he glanced a header into the corner.

It hinted at defensive failings that will need to be addressed before more costly goals are conceded in the months to come.

Arsenal had chances to win it, not least when Randall forced two saves from Abbiati after a surge into the penalty area. He should have scored.

But it could have been worse: Milan almost snatched victory with two minutes remaining when Gianluca Zambrotta curled an exquisite effort against the bar.

Pos Team P W D L F A Pts*
1. Celtic 1 0 1 0 2 2 3
2. Olympique Lyonnais 1 0 1 0 2 2 3
3. AC Milan 1 0 1 0 1 1 2
4. Arsenal 1 0 1 0 1 1 2

* Teams will be awarded 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. The competition also rewards attacking play, with teams also being awarded 1 point for each goal they score. In addition, shots on target will also be counted and will be used to decide the tournament winners if teams are level on points and goal difference.

Referee: Chris Foy
Attendance: 60012

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