Post-Match Report

Urawa Reds 1-2 Arsenal - Match report

13/14: Urawa Reds 1-2 Arsenal - Lukas Podolski

Urawa Red Diamonds -

Saitama Stadium
Friendly Match
Friendly Match
  Urawa Red Diamonds
              Yuki Abe (59)
Urawa Red Diamonds
Yuki Abe (59)
1 2
                  Lukas Podolski (49)
                   Chuba Akpom (82)
Lukas Podolski (49)
Chuba Akpom (82)
Match kicks-off at 7.30pm local time. 'As live' replay available on Arsenal Player from 1.30pm UK time.

By Chris Harris at Saitama City Stadium

Lukas Podolski and Chuba Akpom were on target as Arsenal beat Urawa Reds to lift the Saitama Cup and round off their pre-season tour in style.

The German forward grabbed a brace in this stadium five years ago when Bayern Munich left with the trophy and he was on target just four minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute, converting Theo Walcott's lay-off with his first touch.

Yuki Abe equalised 10 minutes later when Arsenal failed to clear a corner but with just eight minutes remaining Akpom scored his fourth goal of a successful tour after a terrible mix-up at the back by the Reds.

Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were both denied by the woodwork in the first half but the hosts had their chances too, with Tomoya Ugajin forcing a fine save from Lukasz Fabianski.

It was the toughest test of the tour for Arsene Wenger's men, but he will have been pleased with his side's display in becoming only the third European side ever to lift the Saitama City Cup.

It brought to a close a 16-day trip that has covered thousands of miles and three countries while putting smiles on the faces of countless Arsenal fans. The Asia Tour 2013 goes down as a resounding success off the pitch and, as four wins in four games would suggest, a positive experience on it.

Having entertained Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan, Arsenal are back on home soil next weekend when the Emirates Cup returns to Emirates Stadium. It will be another opportunity for Wenger to fine-tune his squad ahead of the new season.

There were slight fitness doubts over Laurent Koscielny, Wojciech Szczesny and Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Arsenal's final tour match. In the end the France defender and England forward were passed fit to play as Wenger made five changes from the side that beat Nagoya Grampus on Monday. Jack Wilshere, Ignasi Miquel and Serge Gnabry joined Koscielny and Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting line-up.

The common consensus was that Urawa Reds would give Arsenal their sternest challenge of the last two weeks. Fourth in the J-League, just five points behind the leaders, the Reds came into this game on a three-match winless streak but they did beat Nagoya here earlier in the season.

There was no doubt that the home fans - and the city in general - were up for it. With 'We Are Reds' flags dotted around the streets of Saitama and the Red Voltage club shop doing a brisk trade on matchday, there was the feel of a big occasion.

This was no 'love-in' for the red-shirted hoards packed behind one of the goals. The Saitama City Cup was at stake, a trophy only Barcelona and Bayern Munich have wrested from the Reds in the past decade.

With Podolski on the bench, Walcott took the fight to the home side. And he was inches away from the opening goal after nine minutes.

Picked out by Mikel Arteta's pass, Walcott had options in Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud but elected to go alone, cruising past two challenges before stroking a left-footed shot against the post. Giroud collected the rebound and his cut-back reached Walcott, but his second measured effort in a matter of seconds was headed away with the keeper beaten.

That double chance brought the game to life. A minute later the Reds should have scored when Ugajin's low cross was spilled by Fabianski, but Per Mertesacker did just enough to distract Marcio Richardes and the striker lifted his shot over the bar from close range.

That was a let-off for the tourists but they were straight back on the offensive and keeper Norihiro Yamagishi had to be alert to deny Gnabry as he ghosted past the last defender.

Ugajin's speculative effort was the only other moment of note before the half-hour as the tempo dipped - hardly surprising given the humidity - but the game came alive again when a dummy from Oxlade-Chamberlain and a neat pass from Giroud sent Walcott through on goal. It was the kind of chance he gobbled up regularly last season but this time he got his shot all wrong.

Giroud lobbed Yamagishi a minute later but his effort dropped wide of the far post and Arsenal went even closer when Oxlade-Chamberlain's first-time shot hit the bar 10 minutes before the break after a corner was only half-cleared.

Walcott, by now 'enjoying' a barracking from the home fans, forced Yamagishi into a decent low save with a 25-yard free-kick. But Urawa hit back on the stroke of half-time when the impressive Ugajin had Fabianski at full stretch to tip away a curling shot.

Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Ramsey, Ryo Miyachi, Tomas Rosicky and Podolski were brought on at half-time and the latter rifled them ahead within four minutes of the restart. Ramsey picked out Walcott inside the box and he had the presence of mind to lay the ball off for Podolski to hammer a low shot into the net.

He really does like the Saitama City Cup.

Walcott could have doubled the lead within two minutes but he couldn't get enough purchase on his finish after Rosicky had beaten his man and got to the byline. And another chance went begging after 53 minutes - once again Rosicky was the creator but Yamagishi grabbed the ball as Walcott tried to go past him.

The game should have been settled but, with one goal in it, the Reds always stood a chance. Arsenal were indebted to Koscielny for a fine saving tackle as Shinzo Koroki went through on goal but they paid for their profligacy just before the hour mark when Abe fired home after a right-wing corner was not dealt with.

An entertaining draw looked on the cards, but with eight minutes remaining Ramsey played a lofted ball through for Akpom to run on to. Mitsuri Nagata beat the young striker to ball but tried to head the ball back to the keeper, who had come rushing out of goal. Yamahishi could only push it straight to Akpom, and he rolled it into the empty net.

The Arsenal players unfurled a banner at the end of the game to thank their supporters and the fans responded with a huge ovation - another reminder that the love for Arsenal goes way beyond the confines of Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners will surely be back in Asia one day. For now though, it's time to head home.

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