SINGAPORE: There was barely an Atletico Madrid jersey in the stands and, for some periods of the game, in the Arsenal half, but that did not stop the Spanish side from beating the Gunners 3-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the opening fixture of the International Champions Cup in Singapore on Thursday (Jul 26).
In front of a 23,095 crowd of mostly Arsenal fans at the Singapore Sports Hub, a stunning strike from 17-year-old Emile Smith Rowe saw the Gunners equalise after Luciano Vietto had given Atletico the lead late in the first half.
But missed penalties from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah meant that Unai Emery’s men ended the game empty-handed.
The Gunners enjoyed the majority of possession in the first half but failed to take their chances.
The first opportunity of the game fell to Arsenal, as a surging run by the wily Reiss Nelson saw Pierre Emerick Aubameyang get on the end of the ball, but his shot was well blocked.
As a turgid Atletico failed to get started, several of Arsenal’s young stars were off to a flyer. Nelson, 19, posed a threat with his pace while shaggy-haired new signing Matteo Guendouzi also displayed a confidence which belied his age, pinging passes from the centre of the park.
After failing to see much of the ball in the opening 20 minutes, Diego Simeone’s side began to venture forward and were almost rewarded. Picked out by Juanfran, the diminutive Angel Correa curled an effort at goal, but the shot was blocked by the head of defender Shkodran Mustafi.
A number of smart stops from goalkeeper Jan Oblak denying Alexandre Lacazette kept Atletico in the contest and they took the lead against the run of play in the 42nd minute.
An Angel Correa cross found Vietto and his smart stooping header was enough to beat Arsenal debutant Bernd Leno.
But Atletico were far from being in the ascendancy, and substitute Antonio Adan barely had time to warm up in goal before he was picking the ball out of the net.
Striding out of midfield, teenager Smith Rowe ghosted past his marker before planting one past Adan.
Stunned into action, Atletico crafted a few chances of their own, but Petr Cech, on as a substitute for Leno, proved equal to them.
German playmaker Mesut Ozil was not named in the squad, but he clearly wasn’t forgotten by the Arsenal fans in attendance. One of the evening’s loudest cheers was reserved for the midfielder when he appeared on the big screen and he responded with a wave.
The game went to penalties and despite the chorus which greeted each of their penalties, it was Atletico who took the win, as Adan converted the final spotkick off the underside of the bar.
Arsenal will take on Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday at the National Stadium, while Atletico will face the French giants on Monday.