Thursday, July 19, 2007, 7pm (CET)
By Richard Clarke in Bad Waltersdorf
Bacary Sagna and Eduardo made their debuts as Arsenal began the Austria tour by beating Genclerbirligi 3-0 at Bad Waltersdorf Stadion on Thursday night.
The French full back played the first half and the Croatian striker came on for the final 21 minutes in this comprehensive victory over the side that had finished sixth in the Turkish League last season.
Robin van Persie scored two of the goals but the other player on the scoresheet, Theo Walcott, really took the eye. The 18-year-old supplied an exquisite pass for Van Persie to slide home Arsenal's first with the final kick of the first half. Six minutes after the break Emmanuel Adebayor and Denilson set up the former Southampton winger to fire low into the far corner.
The two accomplices in that move also deserve a mention for their performances. Adebayor was eager and industrious, Denilson assured and efficient. The Togolese striker set up Van Persie for his second in the 65th minute.
Overall, it was an excellent workout for Arsène Wenger's side.
The only change from the side that had kicked-off Arsenal's pre-season campaign on Saturday at Barnet was the introduction of Sagna for Kerrea Gilbert at right back. Ten of the 12 first-team players named on the bench were making their seasonal debut, including Eduardo. The exceptions were Lukasz Fabianski and Armand Traore.
It had been roasting in this part of Austria ever since Arsenal's arrival on Tuesday. The players knew that better than most, they had been training in it for two hard days. Fortunately the heat had started to dissipate by the time the game kick-off at 7pm (CET) but it was still painfully warm.
Despite that, the start was hardly lethargic. Within 50 seconds, Manuel Almunia was forced to tip over as Okan Ozturk let fly from the right-channel.
In the fifth minute, Van Persie's raking cross-field ball was controlled deftly by the sprinting Walcott on the right flank but he just failed to find Adabayor in the centre. Genclerbirligi responded when Sandro's mazy dribble and shot was smuggled around the post by Almunia.
Adeabyor was looking full of energy. In the 12th minute he charged down a clearance on the halfway line, sprinted down the right, skipped past Lamin's lunge and pulled the ball back for Van Persie eight yards out. Unfortunately the Dutchman lent back as he struck the ball and skied his effort horribly over the bar.
However he did make amends on the quarter-hour by forcing Genclerbirligi keeper Gokhan into a flying save.
By now the game has seemed to settle into a pattern of Arsenal having the majority of the play, but their opponents having the best chances.
That continued in the 28th minute when Sandro's right-wing corner was nodded on to the unmarked Tolga Dogantez at the far post. Almunia was out typically quickly to smother his shot.
Ten minutes before the break, Adebayor broke clear and fed the ball back to Randall, who in turn set up Van Persie just outside the area. His shot was low and firm but Gokhan gathered at the second attempt.
It had been a relatively mundane 45 minutes albeit with some moments of quality. The best move of the half brought the opening goal on the whistle. Walcott picked up the ball on the right and turned on the turbo to breeze past his marker then slid a wonderfully weighted ball to the far post. Robin van Persie did the rest with a low finish.
Walcott was involved at the start of the second half, forcing Gokhan to save with his feet at the near post. Almost immediately, Adebayor sent a cross-shot whistling past the far post.
Arsenal looked like they wanted to kill off the game. They all but did in the 51st minute. Denilson strode through midfield and fed the ball to Adebayor on the left. He passed back to the Brazilian who elected to let the ball run. His dummy fooled the Genclerbirligi defence and Walcott found the far corner of the net with aplomb.
Suddenly the rust was starting to fall off Arsenal. They began to move through the gears with ease; a fact amply illustrated by their third goal in the 65th minute. Adebayor held up play with intelligence before laying the ball to Van Persie to rifle home.
Eduardo made his appearance soon afterwards. He first touch sent a questioning ball to the far post which a defender had to turn behind. Eleven minutes from time, he tricked his way past his marker on the right and sent over a teasing cross that Ljungberg nodded wide.
On the strength of his 21 minutes, there will be much more to come from him. And, on the strength of this performance, the same can be said of his side.