Monday, August 4, 2008

Match Review : Arsenal Beat Real Madrid


Emmanuel Adebayor went some way to winning back the hearts and minds of all Arsenal fans with the goal which beat Spanish giants Real Madrid in the Emirates Cup on Sunday afternoon.

The Togo striker - who was Arsenal's top scorer with 30 goals last season - had been the subject of fevered transfer speculation during the summer, only to dismiss it all as pure conjecture when announcing he would sign a new contract extension with the Gunners.

Before on Saturday's opening game against Juventus, some sections of the Emirates Stadium faithful had let their frustrations be known, which manager Arsene Wenger later described as 'disappointed love'.

However, the 6ft 3ins striker was all smiles again as he converted a penalty five minutes into the second half - and kissed the badge in celebration with the fans behind the goal.

In Arsenal's opening game against Juventus on Saturday, which was lost 1-0, Wenger had opted for a youthful starting XI.

However, Sunday's team was much more familiar - led by captain William Gallas, as Robin van Persie and Adebayor also came in, and there was a full home debut for summer signing Samri Nasri on the left of midfield.

Euro 2008 winner Cesc Fabregas was given some more rest, and centre-back Kolo Toure, recovering from a mild bout of malaria, was another first-team absentee.

Before kick-off, injured Arsenal striker Eduardo - who broke his leg at Birmingham in February - was given a rousing reception as he walked onto the pitch unaided to salute the Emirates Stadium crowd, and the Croatian international could be back in contention by October.

Real had the likes of Chelsea target Robinho, Guti, captain Raul, one-time Arsenal forward Julio Baptista, former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze and former Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek in their team.

Arsenal started brightly with Adebayor and Van Persie working the ball well on the edge of the penalty area before Theo Walcott's low, angled drive was well held by Dudek.

Then, a swift counter-attack set up Denilson 20 yards out, but the young Brazilian's strike was blocked.

Adebayor should have put the home side in front on 32 minutes when Van Persie floated over a cross from the left - only for the Togo frontman to plant his header wide from six yards.

Javier Garcia then came within inches of giving Real the lead when he whipped a 25-yard effort just over Manuel Almunia's crossbar.

Dudek scrambled an angled volley from Denilson behind and then tipped over Adebayor's looping header as Arsenal looked to get themselves ahead before the break.

The Gunners did take the lead four minutes after the restart when referee Mark Clattenburg ruled Michel Salgado had barged over Van Persie in the penalty box and pointed to the spot.

Adebayor made no mistake from 12 yards - and ran straight to the Arsenal fans behind the goal, kissing the club badge on his shirt.

There was an injury worry for Real when, on the hour mark, Holland international Wesley Sneijder had to be carried off on a stretcher after appearing to twist his knee in an awkward fall after a tackle.

Young Mexican Carlos Vela and Emmanuel Eboue were sent on, for Van Persie and Walcott, as Wenger freshened up his frontline.

Adebayor came close to making it 2-0 when he charged through the Real defence and into the box - only to slide the ball wide from six yards.

The Togo striker was, though, now back on side with the home faithful, who were chanting his name once more.

Arsenal's victory saw them finish third in the final Emirates Cup table, with Hamburg - now managed by former Tottenham boss Martin Jol - securing the trophy after they beat Juventus 3-0 in the day's other match.

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