Arsenal Outclass Real Madrid in Emirates Cup
Despite being no fan of Arsenal, I enjoyed my first visit to the Emirates Stadium very much yesterday when I went to see Arsenal play Real Madrid on the second day of the annual pre-season tournament The Emirates Cup, courtesy of my younger brother being an avid supporter.No pre-season encounter will ever provide the most telling evidence of how good a team will perform in the coming campaign, but at least Arsenal gave their fans some genuine hope of success with a stylish and entertaining display yesterday on the second and final day of the Emirates Cup against Spanish champions Real Madrid.After narrowly slipping to defeat against Italian giants Juventus on Saturday, who incidentally lost 3-0 to eventual tournament winners Hamburg in their second match yesterday, Arsenal served up an impressive performance that will at least match the efforts of any of their Premier League rivals this pre-season.In front of a sell-out crowd at The Emirates Stadium, Arsenal and Real Madrid produced what should probably be described as the closest a friendly match can get to being fully competitive. The excited fans were certainly up for it, and the noise generated by them was close to that of a crowd turning up at a Premier League or Champions League fixture, such was the quality of the opposition.Real Madrid’s coach in fact complained after the game because he thought the match was actually too competitive and intense. But he probably came out with these words after his classy midfield starlet Wesley Sneijder had to be stretchered off injured during the second half with what could result in a six month injury. This type of circumstance is an absolute nightmare for a manager during pre-season, especially when he is looking to steer his team towards a domestic championship in the coming campaign. Sympathy must be paid to the Madrid coach and to Sneijder himself.Despite pulling off some marvellous moves that sum up the very identity of Arsenal’s attractive brand of attacking football, the fact that yesterday’s match was only Real Madrid’s third of their pre-season programme puts things into perspective somewhat. They lacked fluidity, flair and conviction throughout the game, and if it wasn’t for the former Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek pulling off some very creditable saves then they would have been beaten by a much greater margin yesterday.The focus was not on Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League hero though for the majority of proceedings, but on the Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor who only committed himself to the club on Friday. He was greeted with a positive reception from most of the supporters, but there were still a fair few who had not yet forgotten his apparent attempts to salvage a transfer to one of Europe’s bigger and more glamorous clubs in the past months.The Togo forward did his upmost best to resurrect the situation yesterday though. He scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot, and he could have had another soon after when he unbelievably managed to dribble his way past three mesmerised Madrid defenders only to slide the ball inches wide of Dudek’s right-hand post. He was roundly applauded when he was substituted by Arsene Wenger late in the second half, and he will go into the Amsterdam Tournament next weekend with more confidence than before the day had begun.Arsenal failed to create any more real chances following Adebayor’s departure, but they could count themselves slightly fortunate to have escaped an extremely dangerous moment in the first-half when Raul was clean through on goal. He seemed to have taken the ball around Almunia with ease before he stumbled over in search of a penalty when the Arsenal goalkeeper had not made any contact with him. He was lucky to not receive a yellow card for his cheeky attempt, and nobody in the packed stadium could understand why he hadn’t just slipped the ball into the empty net in front of him.The home team definitely deserved their impressive victory though, and they will hope to carry their good form onto Ajax and Seville in their second pre-season tournament this year next week in Amsterdam. Hamburg lifted the Emirates Cup trophy at the end of the day’s play though, and their new manager Martin Jol finally finally sampled the taste of victory over his North London counterparts after years of failed attempts at Tottenham.