Arsenal completed their tour of Asia with a 2-1 win over Urawa Red Diamonds. Arsene Wenger started with the following team:
Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Miquel, Arteta, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Giroud, Gnabry
The home side had the first attempt on goal when a tame Wilshere tackle allowed a shot on goal but the striker saw his shot fizz wide.
Theo Walcott almost put Arsenal in front after a great run and break. He cut inside the Reds defence only for his left footed shot to bounce back off the post, and from a rebound saw another effort headed away from close to the goal line.
The game was a much sterner test that all the previous Asia tour games, and after Fabianski fumbled a low cross, Per Mertesacker’s toe ensured that the the home side didn’t have a tap-in to open the scoring.
Ugajin fired in a shot from distance which flew over Fabianski’s bar before clever play between Wilshere and Gnabry almost saw Walcott through but for good Reds defending. Theo Walcott then squandered a good chance after a 1-2 with Giroud, but he skewed his shot wider than Andrei Arshavin’s arse.
Immediately afterwards a brilliant, right-footed, Giroud lob landed just wide of the far post with the keeper off his line, and the Frenchman’s 30 yard free kick deflected off the wall and drifted past the post with the keeper stranded.
Arsenal piled on the pressure with Yamagishi twice making good saves as the ball scrambled around the Reds goalmouth and when it came out to Oxlade-Chamberlain his shot bounced off the top of the bar.
Walcott then fired a free kick which resulted in a corner, before Ugajin’s left foot again troubled Arsenal. Lukas Fabianski pulled off of a fantastic save to stop the curler nestling in the top corner. Neither side found the breakthrough in the first 45 and the teams went in level at half-time.
As usual, there were a number of changes in the second half, with Jenkinson, Ramsey, Podolski and Rosicky all amongst those introduced.
And it was the German who put Arsenal ahead in the 48th minute after good build up play from Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott, Podolski hammered home on the volley from close range. It was almost 2-0 moments later when Rosicky set up Walcott but again the England man’s finishing left a bit to be desired.
Fabianski had to remain alert, tipping a dangerous cross over the bar, before Walcott again squandered another fantastic chance. Clean through on goal he was outsmarted by Yamagishi who got down well to save.
Laurent Koscielny pulled off a fantastic block as Koroki looked like he was going to level the scores, but the home side got level when Arsenal failed to clear a corner and the centre-half, Abe, volleyed home into the top corner to make it 1-1.
Fabianski was called into action soon afterwards, coming out well and making himself big to prevent the Reds taking the lead after some slick build up play. How slick? If it was a person, its first named would have been Oil. And yes, there would have been dead seabirds everywhere.
There was a break in transmission from ESPN which allowed me to make a cup of tea and apparently Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the post during that time. He was then replaced by Gedion Zelalem who, I’m guessing, did lots of amazing stuff which I didn’t see. Then the pictures came back and everyone was friends again.
Beautiful play between Miyaichi and Podolski saw the Japanese winger pull the ball back but no Arsenal player could take advantage, and Arsene Wenger made a further change, bringing on Chuba Akpom for Theo Walcott.
Lukas Podolski should have put Arsenal back in front but spooned a fine Ignasi Miquel cross over the bar. To be fair to him, there was a bit of a bobble just as he took his shot.
Koscielny was again Arsenal’s hero making a brilliant tackle in the box after Zelalem was dispossessed in midfield, and it proved doubly crucial as the Gunners took the lead moments later. Yamagishi and Yamada made a pig’s bollix of a simply situation at the back, the ball fell to Akpom who rolled it home for 2-1.
Aaron Ramsey almost made it 3-1, firing a shot just wide, and as the Reds pressed for an equaliser, Bacary Sagna’s great tackle prevented a clear shot on Fabianski’s goal.
In the end, Arsenal saw the game out, and complete their Asia tour with a 100% win rate. The quality of today’s opposition was a step-up and just what was needed ahead of next weekend’s Emirates Cup.