Urawa Red Diamonds 1 Arsenal 2: Four out of four for Arsenal as Chuba Akpom winner gives Gunners narrow victory
Lukas Podolski also on target against Urawa Red Diamonds as winning start to the season continues
Friday 26 July 2013
Arsenal continued their 100% start to the season as they secured a narrow victory over Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds to win the Saitama Cup with Lukas Podolski and Chuba Akpom of target for the Gunners.
An average first half was briefly stirred by England duo Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with them finding the post and the cross bar respectively with good efforts.
Arsene Wenger made five changes at half-time, introducing Podolski for Olivier Giroud, who failed to score in the match for the first time this season having got on the score-sheet against an Indonesian Dream Team, Vietnam and Nagoya Grampus.
It didn't take long for Podolski to have an impact though, tapping home from close range after 49 minutes when he got onto the end of a Theo Walcott pass across goal. Again, Oxlade-Chamberlain linked up with Walcott as the two looked a constant threat, and Walcott nearly added a goal of his own, using his prolific pace to break clear only to fail his attempt to round the keeper.
Urawa responded well, having already forced Lukasz Fabianski into a good save on the stroke of half-time, and they scored an unlikely equaliser 10 minutes later when the tourists failed to clear a corner, allowing Yuki Abe to fire into the top corner with a cool finish.
The game looked to be heading to a draw, with Arsenal looking for a winner to continue their run, and the chance came when Chuba Akpom pressured the Urawa defence into an error.
Mitsuri Nagata did his best to leave the ball for his goalkeeper Norihiro Yamagishi, but Akpom's resilience meant he had to take action, nearly heading the ball beyond Yamagishi, who got a hand to the ball pushing into the path of the Arsenal striker who coolly slotted home to secure the victory.
Arsenal didn't create too many clear-cut chances as they have down in their previous games - which saw them twice score seven goals - but the run-out will have been important for Wenger along with no further injuries to his already depleted defence.
Laurent Koscielny returned from the ankle injury that ruled him out of the match with Nagoya, allowing Bacary Sagna to switch back to right-back having been deployed at centre-back for the last two matches.
It brought to a close a 16-day trip that has covered thousands of miles and three countries for the Gunners, who return to England ahead of the Emirates Cup clash with Napoli, where new signing Gonzalo Higuain will be making an appearance at the Emirates Stadium having turned down the chance to move there in favour of the Serie A club.
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