By Richard Clarke in New York
Arsenal went down 1-0 at New York Red Bulls on Saturday in the second game of their pre-season campaign.
The only goal came on the half-hour when Bradley Wright-Phillips stabbed home a shot from Thierry Henry’s corner.
As a workout it was worthwhile but the Frenchman was always the star-attraction. He nearly scored with his opening opportunity and pulled all the strings for his highly-competent MLS outfit.
When he was taken off on the hour, presumably to save his legs for a game against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, the game lost a little stardust. Constant substitutions did not help the spectacle either.
But then this is pre-season and Arsenal are still recovering players from the World Cup. They are a work in progress.
This game concluded a brief but wonderful trip to New York. One where they played a mini-game at Grand Central Station, visited Times Square and coached local children.
Well done Red Bulls (who lifted the New York Cup after the game) and thanks 'Big Apple' but now Arsenal return to their own patch to prepare for the Emirates Cup next weekend.
SETTING THE SCENE
This game had sold out all 25,000 tickets in a matter of days. Therefore the atmosphere around the Red Bull Arena was expectant and electric. Over 5,000 Arsenal fans were in attendance. Most drawn from supporters clubs across the US but 500 had come over from England.
A flash storm did little to quell the atmosphere at kick-off, neither did travel congestion outside.
Arsenal’s starting XI was unusual – Tomas Rosicky as the main attacker, Nacho Monreal at centre back. However the midfield was packed with big names and quality – albeit that Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla were playing their first game of pre-season.
Of course, Red Bulls had Thierry Henry in their side – enough said.
We nearly had the perfect sentimental start. After five minutes, Henry went clear and, with the swagger of old, tried to caress a shot into the far corner. Perhaps using knowledge from recent Arsenal training sessions, Wojciech Szczesny tipped it around the post.
Wright-Phillips repeated the feat a few minutes later but in between Cazorla curled an effort just wide.
After that early flurry of chances, the game settled into a lively but even-handed pace.
This was a fair but highly competitive friendly.
Midway through the half, Rosicky picked out Ramsey, who slid a trickling shot just wide.
Meanwhile Red Bulls continued to have success down the left with the Henry’s perceptive passes stretching the Arsenal defence.
The pace of the game had just started to settle when the hosts opened the scoring in the 32nd minute.
Henry floated a corner to the far post, Ambrose Oyongo nodded it down and Wright-Phillips prodded home from close-range.
Arsenal might have been level within five minutes as Wilshere exchanged passes with Gedion Zelalem to drive into the area. The Englishman dug the ball out from under his feet to get a clean shot away. Luis Robles flew out to make a stunning save from close range.
Two minutes later Wilshere’s goalbound kick was nodded away by Tim Cahill.
Arsene Wenger made seven changes at the break – and as a result they quickly had the ball in the net.
Chuba Akpom fed Abou Diaby, who stroked the ball home. However he was ajudged offside. It was marginal.
Before that, Henry left the scene to a standing ovation. Who knows if we’ll ever see him involved in an Arsenal match again.
The visitors continued to press for the equaliser but they were indebted to a sprawling save from Damien Martinez.
On 78 minutes, Akpom sprinted through only for Robles to smother the effort. But Peguy Luyindula went close for Red Bulls; nodding over from corss by Ruben Bover.
Arsenal continued to search for the equaliser but time ran out and Red Bulls had their win.
Referee: Javier Santos
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