Arsenal edge Angers on penalties

Arsenal edge Angers on penalties

Arsenal continued their pre-season preparations with a penalty shoot-out victory over a hard-working Angers.

Farid El Melali put the hosts ahead in the first half against an inexperienced Arsenal line-up. As the regular first-team stars took to the field, the Gunners gained more control and Reiss Nelson levelled proceedings minutes after the restart.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a number of chances to nick a winner but a combination of poor finishing and the offside flag denied him. The striker did net from the spot in the resulting penalty shoot-out with Emiliano Martínez saving the decisive spot-kick from former Gunner Jeff Reine-Adélaïde to seal the win.

A healthy crowd saw Angers mark their 100th year with a high-profile friendly against the North Londoners. Unai Emery named a youthful line-up with Calum Chambers deployed at right back and Mattéo Guendouzi the experienced man in midfield. 

Reine-Adélaïde was named in the starting line-up for the hosts and looked motivated against his former employers. The winger was constantly on the move as Angers dominated the opening exchanges and should have gone ahead when El Melali sunk a ball right into the danger area in the Arsenal box but Chambers was in the right place to get it clear.

Arsenal struggled to deal with the intensity of Angers and their effective press and after a couple of warning signs Baptiste Santamaria produced a defence-splitting pass to send El Melali through and the Algerian rounded Martínez for the opening goal.

The visitors struggled to keep hold of the ball with Angers continuing to press high and that left Arsenal’s attackers as spectators. The frustration started to show around the half-hour mark with a couple of fouls that saw Zech Medley receive a yellow card.

Thomas Mangani’s set-piece delivery threatened to double Angers’ lead but both Mateo Pavlović, who fired past Martínez, and Baptiste Santamaria were both flagged offside to spare Arsenal’s blushes.

The young Gunners ended the first strong strongly but failed to test Ludovic Butelle with Gabriel Martinelli heading wide and Nelson firing off-target.

The half-time break saw Emery ring the changes with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Dominic Thompson, Granit Xhaka and Joe Willock all introduced.

And within five minutes the Gunners drew level. Eddie Nketiah’s shot, from a fabulous Guendouzi cross, was blocked but Nelson was there to knock in the rebound.

A strong run in the Arsenal box from Reine-Adélaïde gave him the moment he had been waiting for but he lost his composure and blazed his shot horribly wide.

Emery went for it on the hour mark replacing Nketiah and Guendouzi with Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Gabon forward led the line well and went close to edging Arsenal ahead when meeting a Xhaka free kick but the bobbled wide.

The final 10 minutes became an open contest with both sides going for the win. An excellent, albeit robust, challenge from Shkodran Mustafi sent Arsenal on the counter with Nelson touching Martinelli’s cross into the path of Aubameyang, who tapped home from an offside position. Nelson picked up a knock in the process and had to be replaced by James Olayinka.

Aubameyang could have had a hat-trick as the chances continued to fall for him, this time he missed an open goal after Butelle parried Mkhitaryan’s effort right into his path.

With the score locked at 1-1 at the final whistle, the game entered a penalty shoot-out and after both sides converted their opening three. Aubameyang put Arsenal ahead before Wilfried Kanga blazed his penalty over.

Jay Bayford

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