Arsenal endured another torrid time at the 6th edition of their ‘Emirates Cup’ pre-season competition, finishing a lowly 3rd, as Turkish champions Galatasaray took home the trophy.
The Gunners could only manage a 2-2 draw against Napoli on Saturday, before a shock comeback from Gala, saw them lose 2-1 yesterday afternoon.
Theo Walcott had put the home side ahead, and going into the last 15 minutes the men in red looked to have sealed a 4th Emirates Cup. But then ex-Chelsea hero Didier Drogba hit twice in quick succession to win his newly-adopted Istanbul-based team the cup.
In Sunday’s other game, FC Porto snatched the runners-up spot, after an impressive comeback of their own, turning Napoli over 3-1, after Goran Pandev netting for the Italians on half-time with a penalty. Porto, however, struck thrice in the second half through Nabil Ghilas, Lica and an own goal from Federico Fernandez.
It was a distinct turnaround from the Portuguese champs, who’d missed two penalties themselves and lost to a Felipe Melo penalty the previous day in a 1-0 reverse against the Turks. For Napoli too, there was disappointment, given Rafa Benitez’s men had led Arsenal 2-0 on Saturday, before a late double from the home side saw the Gunners salvage a draw, after missing a penalty themselves!
With one of Drogba’s double being a penalty too, the tournament could be described as the ‘Year of the Penalty’, with 3 scored and 3 missed, an incredible SIX over just 4 games.
So, whilst the Emirates Cup may have ended in disappointment for the home team, the visiting supporters left North London feeling mighty pleased with themselves!
My Saturday Experience
I actually managed to attend the Emirates Cup this season, on the Saturday, and liked what I saw. From the enormous Emirates Stadium, to the mixture of foreign and home fans, to the novelty of 2 games one after the other, it was brilliant!
Exiting the Arsenal Tube station, and seeing the terraced streets that lead upto the gigantic stadium was great. Temporary merchandise stands filled front gardens, chants were swirling around and the mixture of colours, the oranges of Galatasaray, the blues of Porto and Napoli, was all fantastic.
Then the Emirates appears out of nowhere. It’s not all fancy like Wembley, escalators don’t transport you to your seat, unless you’re some sort of VIP guest of the club, but it’s quite plush, all the same. Our seats seemed high up, but offered a great viewpoint of the games, giving a good tactical overview of proceedings.
Then the games!
It kicked off with Porto-Galatasaray. Not the best of games, but it was lit up with controversy. 3 penalties were awarded in 90 minutes, with Porto missing two and Galatasaray converting theirs, Felipe Melo earning them a 1-0 win. However, I loved seeing established stars like Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba, alongside Melo, Kelvin, Jackson Martinez and the big man…Emmanuel Eboue! Yes you read right, the ex-Arsenal star, loved by fans, ridiculed by opponents. But, he was probably the best player of the game, reveling in returning to the Emirates, and with his every touch cheered to the rafters by the Gooners in the stadium, it was a great thing to see.
Throughout the game, the stadium was slowly filling up, enough to reach the 60,000 capacity, ready for Arsenal-Napoli, in what looked like a tasty game.
And it was! Arsenal had half of their first-teamers out there, with Giroud, Podolski, Koscielny, Gibbs and Wilshere all starting, with Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sagna coming on as subs later in the game. Napoli also fielded a strong line-up with Marek Hamsik, the man with the mohawk, Lorenzo Insigne, Gokhan Inler, Pepe Reina and Goran Pandev all starting, with new signing Gonzalo Higuain coming on at half-time. The stage was set.
Napoli were much slicker in the pass, to the appreciation of their hardcore fans in a section of the stadium, who were jumping around chanting and shirtless all game. So it was no surprise to see them go 1-0 up, after a Carl Jenkinson mistake, which saw 5″4 Insigne clip past Fabianski in goal. Shortly after Gibbs was ‘taken down’ in the area, much to the delight of the home fans, before Podolski had his penalty saved by the impressive Reina. A quick counter-attack just before half-time saw Hamsik play in Pandev who rounded Fabianski to double his side’s lead.
Going in 2-0 down at half-time meant booing was inevitable, but when you’re a fan of Derby County, the ‘worst team ever’, I didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the disgruntled fans of a Champions League side!
Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain came on early into the second half, and their injection of pace woke Arsenal up as an attacking force. They were tricky and a constant danger to the Napoli backline, with the Italian’s resisting until the 72nd minute when Olivier Giroud netted a great overhead kick. This got the quiet crowd going again, attempting to shut out the ecstatic Italian fans, and culminated in a grandstand finish, with corner after corner bombarding the Napoli goal.
Just 4 minutes from time Koscielny saved the day with a header from close-range, Reina had no chance and everyone was happy!
So, overall it was a great day and cool to see so many world-class players, I’d definitely go again next year.