By Rob Kelly at St Mary’s Stadium
Arsenal may have lost 5-4 on penalties to Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday night, but they still lifted the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup.
In an exciting clash at St Mary’s, the hosts took the lead in the 31st minute through Jay Rodriguez’s header following a sustained period of pressure.
But Arsenal responded brightly and Gervinho levelled matters when he worked his way into the Southampton box, held off two men and fired in at the near post.
Both sides went in search of a winner, but with no further goals the game went to a penalty shoot-out. A consummate display of spot-kick taking ensued until Kyle Ebecilio fired the final one wide.
But it was not enough to deny the Gunners the trophy on an enjoyable and useful evening in Southampton.
Arsene Wenger named a more experienced side for the final game of the Memorial Cup, with Andre Santos, Johan Djourou, Francis Coquelin and Gervinho all starting against the hosts.
Henri Lansbury, who scored in the opening game against Anderlecht, started again, as did Craig Eastmond.
Southampton lost their opening game 1-0 to Anderlecht but settled quickest in this match, with James Ward-Prowse directing a powerful header just wide in the fourth minute, before Jason Puncheon shot wide from outside the area.
Lansbury had an opportunity in the 11th minute when he chased on to a long ball over the top of the hosts’ defence, but he just failed to touch the ball past the onrushing Tommy Forecast.
In a more high-tempo game than their previous matches, Arsenal were confident on the ball but chased and harried by their hosts. Indeed, they had to wait until the 20th minute for their next opportunity, which saw Gervinho fire just over from the edge of the area.
But Southampton continued to press, and had a strong five-minute period before the half-hour mark as they gained in confidence. Kyle Bartley soon had to be alert to clear off the line after Vito Mannone had fumbled a fierce free kick, but still the Saints attacked.
They were rewarded moments later when Rodriguez, a new signing from Burnley, rose highest to head an inviting cross into the far corner.
But Arsenal’s response was strong and within four minutes they were level as Gervinho beat his marker on the left to work his way into the area, before crashing home at the near post.
With the game finishing 1-1, we went straight to a penalty shoot-out which the Saints edged home 5-4 after Ebecilio missed the final spot kick. But Arsenal ended the evening victorious, claiming the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup.
* Look out for highlights on Arsenal Player from Sunday afternoon and post-match reaction from Monday.
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