By Rob Kelly at Emirates Stadium
Yaya Sanogo scored four times in a stunning personal performance as Arsenal beat Benfica 5-1 to make a fine start to the 2014 Emirates Cup.
The French striker had failed to register for the club despite an encouraging first season in English football, but caught fire at a jubilant Emirates Stadium.
It was the first time that an Arsenal player has scored four in one game since Andrey Arshavin at Anfield in April 2009, and it was some statement from the 21-year-old.
Sanogo opened the scoring midway through the first half with a neat finish from close range, before Joel Campbell extended the lead with his first goal in Arsenal colours.
But this was Sanogo’s day and on the stroke of half time he scored his second and third in quick succession as the rampant Gunners took over.
The half-time interval did nothing to halt the Frenchman’s hunt for goals and minutes after the restart he added his fourth after Aaron Ramsey’s shot had been saved.
Nico Gaitan pulled one back for the Portuguese champions just after the hour mark, but nothing could take the gloss off Sanogo’s – and Arsenal’s – day.
For all the talk of new strikers this summer, this was an emphatic reminder that Arsene Wenger may just have the perfect solution in his ranks already.
SETTING THE SCENE
After their exertions in New York and Austria, Arsenal were back at Emirates Stadium for the first time since beating West Bromwich Albion on May 4.
Much has changed in that time, most notably the end to the club’s long wait for silverware plus the addition of a host of new faces – although only Calum Chambers started this game.
Wenger has talked up the right back’s versatility and he had an immediate chance to prove it by lining up in the centre of defence alongside Nacho Monreal.
Fellow new boys Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy were named on the bench, although there was a chance for Campbell to stake his claim as he started on the right flank.
Having shone at the World Cup for Costa Rica, there was a palpable sense of excitement around the ground at Campbell’s involvement.
The 22-year-old showed dazzling pace, quick feet and a keen eye for goal in Brazil, and he nearly had an immediate impact here as he cut inside in the third minute and was bundled over in the area – but referee Lee Mason waved play on.
However, this would not be one-way traffic. As opponents, Benfica offered a step up in quality for the Gunners and they showed their attacking threat early on when Gaitan struck the bar with a dipping effort.
In a thrilling opening spell, both sides were attacking at will and on the quarter hour Campbell rolled the ball just wide from a sublime Ramsey pass. Moments later, Sanogo fired past the near post after good work by Hector Bellerin.
However, the French striker would not have much longer to wait to find that elusive first goal as, on 25 minutes, Ramsey span away from two men, charged into the box and crossed for Sanogo to touch home.
The goal seemed to give the 21-year-old an immediate boost and he became increasingly influential, holding the ball up well and bringing the likes of Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the game well.
Indeed, Sanogo was central to Arsenal’s second goal when he combined nicely with the impressive Bellerin, who crossed for Campbell to volley into the bottom corner in the 40th minute.
Moments later, the Costa Rica international could have claimed his second of a productive afternoon but dragged his effort wide after a flowing passing move.
But within minutes, Arsenal did have their third when Ramsey found Campbell to the left of the six-yard box and he rolled it across to Sanogo to tap into the empty net.
But still there was more to come and, right on the stroke of half time, Sanogo completed his hat-trick when he forced his way into the area to meet Kieran Gibbs’ cross and hooked the ball beyond Moraes Artur.
Sanogo picked up from where he had left off at the start of the second half as, within four minutes, he reacted first after Ramsey’s shot had been saved and fired beyond Artur.
The Gunners were in fine form and Bellerin soon tested Artur again with a firm strike after another rampaging run down the right flank.
However, Benfica were much-improved after the break, and claimed one back when Gaitan headed home from close range after a well-worked set piece.
Sanogo departed on 72 minutes to a huge roar – a noise that was only matched by the reaction from the home fans to the long-anticipated introduction of Alexis.
The Chile international immediately earned the appreciation of the Emirates faithful with a neat spin away from two men, and caught the eye during a lively 15-minute cameo.
Indeed, in injury time he found space on the right and cut the ball back for Francis Coquelin, whose first-time effort struck the post.
Alexis’ display was enough to have Arsenal fans everywhere licking their lips in anticipation of what he might produce against AS Monaco on Sunday – but in truth the day was all about Sanogo.
Emirates Cup table
|3. AS Monaco||1||0||1||0||2||2||0||3|
Referee: Lee Mason
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