This year’s Emirates Cup in regular fashion was kicked off by two of our visitors. The two teams to open the competition this year were Sevilla and RB Leipzig.
The opening stages of the game were very stop-start with various collisions across the pitch but the quality of players like Emile Forsberg and Naby Keita saw Leipzig gain control of the match.
Their travelling fans almost had something to shout just before the 20-minute mark as Jean-Kevin Augustin was put through on goal with a delicate dink over the defence but unfortunately, the Frenchman couldn’t control his shot well enough.
It would be Sevilla who would go 1-0 up through a Wissam Ben Yedder penalty after 35 minutes. The penalty came from a quick Sevilla break which saw Walter Montoya find his way into the box only to be stopped by Leipzig’s Bernardo, which looking back, looks like he got the ball.
Straight after the break, Leipzig had yet another chance to score but couldn’t take it. Augustin was put in behind the defence but Yussuf Poulsen wasn’t able to tuck away his cutback from the byline.
Just 10 minutes later Sevilla should’ve doubled their lead as a stray back pass put Joaquin Correa one-on-one with the Leipzig goalkeeper, who did well to save his effort. Further into the game, Montoya hit a close range volley onto the crossbar seconds before being replaced by Michael Krohn-Delhi.
Come 16:20, the stadium was now full in time for the big game. Arsenal vs Benfica. Even though this was still a pre-season game the reaction to the team sheet was one of surprise, this is how we lined up: David Ospina, Rob Holding, Per Mertesacker, Sead Kolasinac, Reiss Nelson, Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi and Olivier Giroud.
We only had to wait four minutes until Arsenal had their first chance. Playing in our new blue away kit Walcott was somehow able to find Giroud with a cute dink in the box but Giroud’s header could only find Julio Cesar.
But 12 minutes into the game and Arsenal were 1-0 down. A chipped ball into the box was knocked down by Jonas only for Cervi to strike at goal. It was a well-struck shot, yes, but the double deflection off both Mertesacker’s legs gave Ospina no chance of keeping the ball out.
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long for the equaliser though. On 24 minutes after silky footwork from Coquelin in midfield followed by great determination from new boy Kolasinac the ball ended up in the path of Walcott. Unlike moments earlier, Walcott made no mistakes with this strike as he powered his volley home to make it 1-1 and confirm Kolasinac’s first Arsenal assist.
Only moments later Coquelin was the centre of yet another Arsenal goal. After receiving the ball on the edge of the box he pulled off a one-two with Kolasinac to get deep into the box before squaring the ball to Walcott who calmly slotted his second goal of the game. Unfortunately, though Coquelin would come off after the goal having looked like he injured himself moments earlier.
But as we all know, anything can happen at the Emirates. After very sloppy play at the back Benfica pounced and with Mertesacker and Holding scrambling in the area Salvio managed to get a shot off. After deflecting off Holding the ball found its way into the goal and the scores were level again at half time.
Luckily there was another goal for Gooners to shout for. Just after the break, we managed to work the ball back into the box following a corner. Walcott beat Benfica’s offside trap to reach Xhaka’s first-time pass before attempting to square the ball to Giroud but instead saw his pass bounce off the foot of Lisandro Lopez and into the net.
Just past the hour mark and we finally had some distance between ourselves and Benfica. On the edge of the box playing as a right wing back again was Reiss Nelson, on his left foot he put in a great cross over the defence for a stretching Giroud to volley into the opposite corner of the goal and make it 4-2. The pair really deserved something in terms of a stat to mark their performances on the day.
Minutes later and it was 5-2. Oli G was involved again and he laid off a Kolasinac ball nicely in front of Iwobi who fired a first time shot past Julio Cesar.
Shortly after in the 74th minute we had our mass change with six players arriving onto the pitch. Coming on were Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal and finally Alexandre Lacazette who played just off Giroud in the 3-4-2-1 formation.
That would be the notable action to report of the game though. So, after the first day of the Emirates Cup Arsenal would shoot to the top of the table with 8 points (getting an extra point for each goal scored too), Sevilla are 2nd with 4 points, Benfica sit in 3rd with 2 points and RB Leipzig are at the bottom of the pile without any points on the board.