By Richard Clarke
Patrick Vieira returned to the Arsenal team in this entertaining 1-1 draw with Celtic on Saturday.
The Arsenal captain, missing since the top-of-the-table Premiership clash with Manchester United back on April 16, was standing on the sidelines ready to come on when the home side took the lead through Liam Miller in the 57th minute.
The French midfielder, who underwent a knee operation earlier in the summer, came on and helped the visitors grab a deserved equaliser 19 minutes from time through Kanu.
It was a fair result in a competitive friendly, if that's possible, played out in front of a large crowd of 44,396.
Apart from Vieira, the Arsenal fans were given another new sight when the team came out - the yellow and blue away strip. It is officially launched in the shops on August 7.
The match itself was predictably frantic at the start with little flowing football. Celtic got a clear sight of goal in the eighth minute when Shaun Maloney capitalised on an error at the back and bore down on goal. His shot was low and forceful but Jens Lehmann, himself a relatively new sight in the Arsenal goal, came out to narrow the angle and the ball cannoned off his legs and away to safety.
Eight minutes later Arsenal responded when Ashley Cole slipped a clever ball to Francis Jeffers on the edge of the area and he swivelled to steer a trickling shot just wide of the post with keeper Magnus Hedman beaten.
In Jeffers and Jeremie Aliadiere, the visitors had two willing front runners. They gave Arsenal an attack outlet despite Celtic enjoying more of the possession in the opening half-hour.
However, last season's Uefa Cup finalists had the better chances before the break. In the 32nd minute Stilian Petrov danced inside his defender on the left-hand byline and managed to wrap his foot around a deceptively dangerous shot that had Lehmann scrambling low to his right.
Then on the stroke of half time, only a timely tackle from Sol Campbell denied the galloping Neil Lennon as he looked set to burst clear.
After the break, Arsène Wenger brought on Edu, Gio van Bronckhorst and Kanu for Gilberto, Jermaine Pennant and Aliadiere. Within 12 minutes, Arsenal were trailing.
Lennon floated a ball over from the left, Momo Sylla nodded the ball on and Liam Miller hooked the ball home. Lehmann got his fingertips to his effort but just failed to stop the ball creeping into the corner.
As the Celtic fans celebrated, Vieira replaced Ljungberg - a significant moment.
Arsenal nearly replied immediately when Kanu found Jeffers but the striker's attempted chip was easily gathered by Hedman. The impressive Momo Sylla then hassled Campbell into a short back pass. The Guinean international skipped past Lehmann and sent a cross toward the unguarded goal. However the Arsenal defence managed to spirit the ball away.
The game was finally opening up. Lehmann rushed out to deny Shaun Maloney then seconds later at the other end, Jeffers hooked a shot wide from Parlour's cross.
Kanu had come on at half time and looked lively. He had already seen a shot blocked from point-blank range before he levelled in the 71st minute. There was a stroke of luck involved. He advanced down the right, looked up and side-footed cross for the unmarked Jeffers at the far post. The ball hit Celtic defender Joos Valgaeren and rebounded kindly for the Nigerian to tuck home his shot from the tightest of angles at the near post.
Both sides had half-chances to win it but both seemed happy enough with a draw at full time.