Arsenal narrowly saw off Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds as a late strike from youngster Chuba Akpom sealed the Saitama City Cup win for the visitors.
An entertaining first half saw both teams have chances. England internationals Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came closest for Arsenal in the first half as they both had efforts hit the woodwork. Walcott even came close to putting Arsenal in front on the rebound. The hosts came close as Tomoya Ugajin’s cross called Lukasz Fabianski into action and Marcio Richardes shot over the bar from close range as Per Mertesacker did enough to put the Brazilian off.
We knew that this would be Arsenal’s most difficult game of pre-season to date and so it proved. Arsenal can expect tougher games with Napoli, Galatasaray and Manchester City all on their fixture list before the end of pre-season.
Walcott was played in again in the 26th minute, but blasted well over the bar when through on goal. A lot better will be expected when the Premier League campaign begins.
A flick on by Mertesacker had the Urawa goalkeeper scrambling to claw the ball away, before Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot cannoned off the crossbar and back out again.
Ugajin came close on the stroke of half time as his effort was finely saved by Fabianski in the Arsenal goal. It was very nearly the opening goal of the game.
Arsene Wenger brought on five subs at the break, one of them took just four minutes to break the deadlock. Lukas Podolski hammered home after Walcott’s lay-off set it up perfectly for the German.
Ten minutes later and the hosts were level. Abe fired home as the Gunners failed to clear a corner properly. Something to work on in training perhaps, can’t have that happen too often next season if we want to be winning games!.
Arsenal were gifted the victory with eight minutes to go. Aaron Ramsey played a ball forward for young Chuba Akpom to chase down. The move looked dead when the Urawa defender got to the ball ahead of Akpom. However, he tried to head the ball back to the onrushing keeper, who could only palm the ball into the path of Akpom, who simply couldn’t miss.
Arsenal were given a good test today – the toughest of the tour this year. They will face much more difficult opposition throughout the 2013/14 campaign, but this Asia Tour has been a successful one, one that all the fans in Asia will remember. With the fans so great out there (the highlight being the running man in Vietnam!) I would love to see Arsenal return once again next year. The fans deserve it and it is good money for the club. Hopefully now the tour is over, they can get to signing some players – although to be fair, we’ve been active in our pursuit of Luis Suarez whilst out in Asia!.
Highlights of today’s game are available here