Arsenal squeezed past Celtic in the final game of the Emirates Cup to lift the pre-season trophy for the third time in four years, with goals coming from Carlos Vela, Bacary Sagna and Samir Nasri. As stand-in captain, Manuel Almunia lifted the trophy after the match, and had done extremely well to deny Celtic another goal in the second half. At 3-0 down, Georgios Samaras missed a penalty after man of the match Jack Wilshere pulled Marc-Antoine Fortune down in the area, before Celtic grabbed two goals to give the Gunners a right scare.
The line-up was quite different to the team we saw draw to AC Milan the previous day, as was to be expected, and Arsene Wenger stayed true to his word, playing Manuel Almunia in goal. Thomas Vermaelen started again, but was surrounded by three players who weren’t in the starting line-up for the Milan match, although they all came on in the second half. Sagna played at right back, with Johan Djourou partnering the Verminator at centre half, while Gael Clichy came in for Kieran Gibbs at left full back.
The midfield five consisted of Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Frimpong, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Carlos Vela, three of whom also started against Milan the previous day. In place of yesterday’s hero Marouane Chamakh was the huge Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who had missed out on the Saturday due to illness, and Arsene went on to explain that the youngster would probably only play 45 minutes, with Chamakh replacing him at the break.
Just three minutes in, and we were in front, with Wilshere slipping in Theo, who dragged a shot across the face of goal, and there was Carlos Vela, who slid in to gleefully grab his first goal of the tournament, and his second of pre-season. The Celtic defenders appealed for offside in vain, but the replays showed Vela was clearly onside.
Rosicky had a go from a free kick, whipping the ball in from a tight angle, but the Celtic goalkeeper was equal to it. Celtic had a couple of decent half-chances, but their finishing was poor, and Arsenal got away with giving the ball to the opposition a couple of times. A few minutes later, Thomas Vermaelen was urged to shoot by the Arsenal fans, and he duly obliged, cracking a shot on goal that stung the hands of Zaluska in the Celtic goal, and when the ball rebounded to Theo Walcott, he was unable to get it under control, and was subsequently flagged offside.
The speedy winger then grabbed the ball for a free kick about 30 yards out, and tried his luck, but Zaluska tipped the ball over, and it was a great effort from the much-maligned Walcott. Rosicky then spread the play beautifully all the way out to Carlos Vela, who slipped in Gael Clichy. Having fooled the Celtic right back, Gael cut the ball back to Jack Wilshere, whose shot was deflected and smartly saved by Zaluska.
Tomas “Edward Scissorhands” Rosicky took the corner, and it dropped in front of Jack Wilshere, who smashed a first time volley on goal, but alas, it crashed against the bar. It was a similar strike to Paul Scholes’ stunner against Aston Villa, although obviously without the goal part. Wilshere reacted quickly to thrust himself in between two Celtic players to head the ball on goal, but Zaluska’s reactions were equally good, and he scrambled across to pluck the ball out of the air.
After Walcott skinned a defender down the right wing, he tried to evade a second and get into the box, but instead won a corner. Rosicky took it, and received the ball back from Vermaelen. The Czech midfield schemer played the ball into Bacary Sagna’s path, and the full back steamed in to drill the ball through the legs of a Celtic defender and just under the despairing dive of Zaluska moments before half time, and Sagna set off in delighted celebration.
Two changes were made as Marouane Chamakh and Samir Nasri replaced Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Tomas Rosicky respectively. Both were soon involved in a flowing move that led to Arsenal’s third; after linking up with Chamakh, Nasri played in Walcott, who bounded into the Celtic penalty area before setting up Nasri, who curled the ball in low at the far post to make it 3-0 just after half time.
After Almunia made a good save from Juarez, Marc-Antoine Fortune was pulled to the ground as Jack Wilshere fell off the ball in the Arsenal area, and Andre Marriner pointed to the spot, cue the jeers from the home supporters. Up stepped Georgios Samaras, but he lifted the ball high and wide of Almunia’s left post, and the Arsenal fans mocked the woeful effort of the ex-Man City striker.
Celtic would get a goal back soon though, after an ambitious effort from 25 yards out ricocheted off of two Arsenal players and fell to Daryl Murphy, who stroked a volley past Almunia. This time it was Arsenal’s turn to appeal for offside, but again, the linesman was proven correct by the replay.
Another great save by Almunia denied Celtic a second, but he was powerless to stop Sung-Yueng from making it two later on, when Fortune squared for the Celtic man to slot past the goalkeeper from close range, and the Scottish side hurriedly grabbed the ball and ran back to the centre circle. One more goal and they would win the Emirates Cup – an unlikely situation having been 3-0 down after 70 minutes.
After a nervous ten minutes, the final whistle blew with the score at 3-2, and the Gunners had held on to claim victory in the game and in the Emirates Cup. The players were presented with their medals, and then lifted the trophy. Not a bad way to start the new season.
As written by Rockin’ Robin of GoonersWorld forum