Post-Match Report

Tour: Kitchee 2-2 Arsenal - Match Report

12/13 - Kitchee 2-2 Arsenal

Kitchee FC -

Hong Kong Stadium
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  Kitchee FC
Kitchee FC

By Rob Kelly at the Hong Kong Stadium

Arsenal waved goodbye to the Far East with a highly-entertaining 2-2 draw against Kitchee in their final match of the 2012 tour.

It has been an exciting, exhilarating trip to Asia for Arsene Wenger’s side, and this match encompassed that perfectly. There were chances galore, some excellent passing football and a series of fine individual performances. It was some way to wave goodbye for another year.

Kitchee took the lead with an excellent strike from Yago Gonzalez Lopez before Theo Walcott brought the Gunners back on level terms with an emphatic finish.

But the hosts proved to be dogged opponents and re-established the lead through Daniel Cancela Rodriguez before half time. Arsenal dominated the second period and Thomas Eisfeld finally converted an equaliser in the 77th minute.

It was breathless stuff at times, played in dense humidity and bright sunshine, but excellent value for those packed into the picturesque Hong Kong Stadium.

Arsenal have enjoyed a wonderful reception during their short time in Hong Kong and headed into the match determined to bow out with a positive performance.

Wenger named a strong side and handed his players a licence to thrill by including Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ryo.

Kitchee, who completed a domestic treble last season, included former QPR and Fulham defender Zesh Rehman in their ranks as they went in search of a famous scalp.

A protest in town meant some spectators were late in arriving at the ground, but excitement remained at fever pitch - and once the match began, it did not disappoint.

The hosts started brightly, and opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a delightful goal that Arsenal would have been proud of themselves.

It came after Lam Ka Wai pounced on a loose ball out of defence and slipped a beautifully-weighted pass behind the visitors’ backline for Yago, who stroked it into the far corner. Game on.

It was a wake-up call for Wenger’s side and four minutes later Walcott came within a few inches of restoring parity with a curling left-footed effort that shaved the far post.

When Arsenal did equalise, in the 24th minute, it was that man Walcott again as he slammed home from close range. It was a strike that owed much to Abou Diaby, who did well to close down a dawdling defender on the edge of the area, win the ball and slip a pass in for the England international to convert.

Walcott celebrated by making the Chinese sign for respect, learnt during a kung-fu lesson in Beijing earlier in the week.

The forward was in the mood for more and moments later he slalomed into the area past three defenders, only to see Rehman block his attempted pass to Marouane Chamakh. It looked as though the Gunners were moving through the gears, but suddenly they found themselves behind once more.

Kitchee had remained a threat going forward, and just before the half-hour mark Cancela Rodriguez crashed the ball high into the roof of the net after a scramble in the area. The game was well and truly on.

Chamakh came close with a glancing header, Diaby sliced a shot just wide and Walcott was off target with a long-range strike before half time as Arsenal tried to find a way back into the game.

Wenger made a raft of changes at the start of the second half, bringing on the likes of Gervinho, Chuks Aneke and Benik Afobe. And within two minutes, England Under-19 international Afobe hit the post after a slick passing move involving Carl Jenkinson and Gervinho.

It was a sign of things to come as Arsenal turned up the heat on Kitchee, with Walcott and Gervinho particularly bright. But as the game opened up, the hosts were afforded chances themselves and Lo Kwan Yee twice came close to opening up a two-goal lead.

Walcott is a hugely-popular figure in Asia and he was clearly determined to put on a show here, again going close just before the hour mark with a curling effort. Afobe then had a golden chance to equalise after meeting Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chipped cross, but headed over from close range.

Wenger’s side were the dominant force and Mikel Arteta, who came on midway through the second period, took aim from 25 yards but arrowed his shot just off target.

The pressure finally told as Gervinho cut in from the left flank, beat his marker and rolled the ball back to Eisfeld to slide home. It has been a profitable tour for the young German, who also stepped off the bench to score against a Malaysia XI five days ago in Kuala Lumpur.

Arsenal scented victory and remained on the front foot, Aneke testing Zhenpeng with a shot from the edge of the area struck with the outside of his foot. But try as they might, a winner would not come and the spoils were shared.

It had been some finale and proved to be the perfect way to bid farewell to the Far East.

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