Arsenal vs Monaco match report: Alexis Sanchez shines for Arsenal but Radamel Falcao makes the difference in the Emirates Cup

Arsenal 0 Monaco 1

Emirates Stadium

The Emirates Stadium filled up this afternoon with fans desperate to see a world-class South American striker settle Arsenal’s friendly with Monaco. That is what they got, but not courtesy of the man they were hoping would shine.

Alexis Sanchez was impressive on his first start for Arsenal, though it was not the £35m Chilean but Monaco’s £50m Colombian who won the match. Radamel Falcao was starting his first game since he ruptured knee ligaments in a French cup game in January but looked sharp and intelligent, winning the match with a free header in the first half. He celebrated emotionally, naturally delighted to be fit and scoring again. Apart from anything else, Real Madrid will buy him only if he can play.

The result meant that Valencia, who had earlier beaten Benfica 3-1, won the Emirates Cup. Arsenal will not be too disappointed, even if their drought in this particular competition now extends to four years. The club and the fans got what they wanted: an enjoyable 73 minutes from their latest marquee signing.

The afternoon was only going to be about one man. This was Sanchez’s first start for Arsenal, the day after his quiet 17-minute cameo against Benfica. His was the name on most new replica kits at the Emirates and the name cheered more loudly than any other before kick-off.

Sanchez played the first half on the right wing and what would have made the strongest early impression on his new fans was his strength and tenacity. Sanchez’s bullish build is similar to Carlos Tevez or Sergio Aguero, and he showed the same physicality with his first touch, holding off the imposing left-back Elderson Echiejile.

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While Sanchez’s initial few touches were slightly rusty, he improved as the first half went on, beautifully controlling a ball down the line from Mathieu Debuchy with his outstretched right foot, and later evading Lucas Ocampos with an inventive back-heel.

Alexis Sanchez runs with the ball Alexis Sanchez runs with the ball Trust takes time to build, though, and Arsenal’s attacking play was understandably short on fluency. Their manager, Arsène Wenger, described the first-half performance as “static, lethargic and not convincing at all”. Olivier Giroud was ineffective – Wenger said he was “not ready at all” – and their best opportunity came when Andrea Raggi nearly turned Debuchy’s cross into an own goal.

Monaco had less of the ball but were more dangerous. Yannick Carrasco and Ocampos were incisive on the wings, and Joao Moutinho should have converted Ocampos’s first-half cross. It was Moutinho who made the goal after Jack Wilshere’s recklessly late tackle on Nabil Dirar. The Portuguese midfielder curled a free-kick into the box and Falcao evaded his markers to head home. Just before the break, Debuchy had to stop Falcao from adding a second from Dirar’s flick.

 

At the interval, Wenger withdrew Giroud for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, moving Sanchez from the right to play as a No 9. Arsenal suddenly looked brisker and sharper, Sanchez’s movement in the box far better than Giroud’s. Their best chance fell to Wilshere, five minutes into the second half, as he raced on to Santi Cazorla’s pass, only for his powerful shot to be saved by Danijel Subasic.

Mathieu Debuchy competes with Geoffrey Kondogbia for the ball Mathieu Debuchy competes with Geoffrey Kondogbia for the ball Sanchez sliced a shot wide – his last contribution before he was replaced – but it was two substitute youngsters who nearly earned Arsenal a point. Gedion Zelalem played a delightful through pass to Chuba Akpom, who ran in behind the Monaco defence. He was tripped in the box by Subasic but the assistant referee Akane Yagi wrongly ruled that it was a free-kick rather than a penalty. Aaron Ramsey could only hit the wall.

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