Post-Match Report

Emirates Cup: Arsenal 3-2 Celtic - Report

Celtic FC -

Emirates Stadium
Emirates Cup
Emirates Cup
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  Celtic FC
Celtic FC

By Chris Harris

The Emirates Cup is staying home - but only just.

Arsenal lifted the trophy for the third time in four tournaments thanks to a 3-2 win over Celtic but what looked at one point like a Sunday stroll escalated into a frantic finish.

Carlos Vela set Arsenal on their way with a sliding finish in the third minute and Bacary Sagna smashed in a collector's item on the stroke of half-time.

Samir Nasri came off the bench to slot a third just five minutes into the second half but Celtic rallied and, after Georgios Samaras missed a penalty, Daryl Murphy fired them back into contention.

Ki Sung-Yueng struck with seven minutes left to set up a tense finale but the hosts survived a few more alarms before heaving a sigh of relief at the final whistle.

It was fine entertainment for a near-capacity crowd at Emirates Stadium and, of course, this represented another useful workout ahead of the Premier League opener at Liverpool in a fortnight.

It's always nice to win a trophy and Arsenal have become dab hands at giving their fans a pre-season cheer on home soil. The trick is to follow it up with a major pot next May.

Predictably, Wenger made seven changes for the tournament finale with much of Saturday's bench comprising Sunday's line-up.

Manuel Almunia, Bacary Sagna, Johan Djourou, Gael Clichy, Vela, Theo Walcott and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas were handed starts with the latter operating as a central striker - one of many positions he has occupied in recent times.

Milan's 1-1 draw with Lyon earlier in the day - the third stalemate of the weekend - meant any win would do for Arsenal. And they raced out of the blocks to secure the advantage they required in a shade over two minutes.

Jack Wilshere was the architect, picking out Walcott with a sharp pass into the right-hand side of the penalty area. The England winger went for goal but his shot flew across the six-yard box where Vela slid in to gleefully convert.

Celtic had barely drawn breath but they tried to respond. Shaun Maloney curled a free-kick past the Arsenal wall but Almunia took it on the bounce. Moments later his opposite number Lukasz Zaluska clung on after Tomas Rosicky whipped in a dead ball from a narrow angle.

This was a frenetic start for a friendly but, despite the midweek distraction of a Champions League qualifier, Celtic matched their hosts for a time.

After 17 minutes Emmanuel Frimpong chased and harried an opponent only to leave a gap behind him. Morten Rasmussen raced into the box and held off his marker but, with glory beckoning, he sliced his shot horribly wide. Not long after, Efrain Juarez's finishing was just as poor.

It was a reminder that Arsenal could not rest on their laurels but, as the half wore on, they racked up plenty of chances of their own.

Thomas Vermaelen lined up a howitzer which stung Zaluska's hands, Emmanuel-Thomas saw his attempted chip deflect wide after fine approach play from Rosicky and the Czech himself saw a shot fly off a defender's boot and away from danger.

Just after the half-hour, Arsenal turned up the heat.

Walcott scored a masterful free-kick during training in Austria and he clearly fancied his chances when presented with a dead ball from 30 yards. He was right to be confident - Walcott's curling effort forced an acrobatic tip-over from Zaluska.

A minute later Rosicky's raking pass to Vela sparked a wonderful flowing move. The Mexican found Clichy on the overlap and he feigned to cross before cutting the ball back into Wilshere's path. The teenager's shot bounced off a defender and prompted another decent save from Zaluska.

Rosicky clipped the resulting corner to the edge of the box where Wilshere provided the non-scoring moment of the game - a perfectly-executed volley which crashed against the bar. Wilshere was up quickly to head the rebound goalwards but Zaluska's reactions were just as good and he made the catch.

Once the usual suspects had tried their luck, Sagna showed them how it's done.

The right back has only scored once in an Arsenal shirt - a header at Chelsea in 2008. You would have got astronomical odds on Sagna lashing in a first-time 20-yarder with his weaker left foot, but that's exactly what happened after Rosicky had rolled the ball into his path.

The celebration was as exuberant as you've seen and why not? Sagna won't forget that one in a hurry.

You'd have thought the second goal would knock the stuffing out of Celtic and it seemed that way when Nasri grabbed a third six minutes into the second half.

Clichy's challenge allowed his fellow Frenchman to pick out Walcott and he twisted and turned inside the box before laying a return pass back for Nasri to find the net.

But Celtic - who fought back from a two-goal deficit against Lyon on Saturday - bounced back with character and style.

Juarez had three chances of his own, just failing to connect with a left-wing cross, sending another effort wide and finally forcing a smart stop from Almunia after a piercing pass from Samaras.

Samaras himself had earned the biggest laugh of the afternoon when he skied a spot-kick after Wilshere was penalised for running into Marc-Antoine Fortune.

But Celtic got the goal their efforts deserved 17 minutes from time when a shot from distance hit Djourou, bounced off Frimpong and fell kindly for Murphy, who beat Almunia from close range.

The Scottish giants scented blood and piled on the pressure.

Sung-Yueng's volley flew just over and Murphy squandered a one-on-one with Almunia. Arsenal failed to heed the lesson and Celtic broke down the right where Fortune squared for Sung-Yueng to score.

The boisterous Celtic support celebrated but they couldn't quite will their team to an equaliser.

And so, for the third time in four years, Arsenal warmed up for the season by lifting a trophy in front of their home support.

Now let's end the season that way.

Pos Team P W D L F A Pts*
1. Arsenal 2 1 1 0 4 3 8
2. Celtic 2 0 1 1 4 5 5
3. Olympique Lyonnais 2 0 2 0 3 3 5
4. AC Milan 2 0 2 0 2 2 4

* 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: Andre Marriner
Attendance: 59727

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