FULL TIME: Arsenal 5-1 Benfica
And that’s that. What a fine performance by Arsenal, who top the Emirates Cup group after the first matches, on eight points, leading Valencia and Monaco by five. They were brilliant today, as wonderful to watch as Benfica were abject. “Benfica are almost Brazilian in their ineptitude,” repeats Michael Cosgrove, who was paying close attention on 51 minutes. “I never thought I’d ever read those words before this World Cup and I suppose you never thought you’d write them either. Times do change indeed.” Well, you’ve got to grasp these rare opportunities when they arise. See also the bits about Yaya Sanogo, four goals, and Garrincha.
90 min +2: Cazorla busies himself down the right. The ball’s given to Akpom, who pulls it back into the centre. Coquelin takes a whack, and his shot, across Artur, bounces off the bottom of the left-hand post! It’s been Arsenal’s day, and could easily have been even better had the woodwork been their pal.
88 min: Corner for Arsenal down the left. Cazorla whips it in. Miquel gets his head on it. The ball loops up and down, and for a second looks like nestling in the top left. But it hits the angle of post and bar instead. That would have been rather fortunate.
86 min: And hats off to them for completing their second triple substitution in less than eight minutes, which is what the first one took! Amorim, Gaitan and Lima are hooked in favour of Derlei, Cancelo and Teixeira. Just over a minute, and most of that was down to reserve official Martin Atkinson being all thumbs with the display board.
83 min: Benito is booked for a lunge on Akpom, who was about to zip clear down the right wing. This has been played in a good spirit, which you’d expect from a friendly, but not necessarily from a match in which one team is getting their buttocks handed to them on a platter with no garnish. Hats off to Benfica for not losing the collective head.
81 min: Benfica start peppering the Arsenal goal. First Bebe takes a free kick from nearly 30 yards out on the left. He hits a belter towards the top left, forcing Martinez to acrobatically tip out for a corner. Nothing comes directly from the corner, but soon enough Pereira is making good down the right, and blasts a rising shot onto the right-hand post and out of play. That should be a corner, as Martinez fingertipped that onto the upright, but the keeper is quite happy to receive no credit from the referee and take the goal kick instead.
79 min: Pereira launches another long throw into the Arsenal box from the right. There’s a bit of a brouhaha, and Gaitan attempts a cheeky backheel from ten yards through a thicket of defensive ineptitude. It’s straight at Martinez, who gathers. If there’s one black mark on Arsenal’s card this afternoon, it’s been a weakness at defending set pieces.
76 min: A dance by Gibbs down the left. The ball’s rolled inside for Wilshere, who shuttles it on to Cazorla. The Spanish star attempts a curler into the bottom right from the left-hand side of the Benfica D. Artur is all over it.
75 min: Within a minute, Sanchez has performed a little twinkle-toed dance on the ball. The home fans, enjoying themselves very much, are most appreciative.
74 min: Another triple substitution by Arsenal, yet again completed well within the 60-second mark. They’re just showing off now, rubbing it in. Sanogo has already gone, and Campbell and Monreal follow him off. Miquel, Akpom and Sanchez - to huge cheers, as you’d expect - take the field.
73 min: Bebe, down the right, pulls the ball back for Gaitan on the edge of the D. The shot nestles into the top-left corner of the stand behind the goal.
71 min: Sanogo’s ersatz Brasil ‘58 pastiche has come at a cost. He’s tweaked something in his leg, having just tweaked something in everyone else’s head, and has naffed off down the tunnel. Looks like Alexis Sanchez is about to make his bow in Arsenal colours!
69 min: Sanogo turns into Garrincha, beating four men in quick succession down the right. He can’t quite get a cross away, but let me repeat: for a moment, Yaya Sanogo turned into Garrincha.
67 min: Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas here. Understandable, but they’re letting Benfica have the run of things right now. Almeida is in space down the left, and his looping cross, intended for Lima, nearly worms its way into the bottom right. But Martinez is behind it to smother.
66 min: Lima and Gaitan skedaddle down the middle of the park, exchanging passes. Gaitan finally slips the ball wide right to Bebe, who does what Manchester United fans would expect, and hoicks a laughable shot out to the left wing.
64 min: The crowd are busy entertaining themselves with a Mexican Wave. Are six goals in little over an hour not enough these days?
GOAL! Arsenal 5-1 Benfica (Gaitan 62)
A consolation for Benfica! A long throw from the right, which is flicked on, allowing Gaitan to head home from six yards. Silence in the Emirates. Benfica don’t bother celebrating.
61 min: Arsenal show Benfica how it’s done: Wilshere, Coquelin and Arteta come on for Rosicky, Ramsey and Flamini. Less than 30 seconds, that took! Take notes, Jorge.
60 min: Benfica complete their triple substitution! John and Talisca are replaced by Almeida and Candeias. Well done, everyone! Well done!
57 min: This is the longest triple substitution in history! Benfica swap Salvio for Bebe, but then there’s some confusion with the numbers, and they’re forced to abort the mission one-third of the way through. What a farce. Benfica should have this completed by the 67th minute, as things stand.
56 min: Bellerin triangulates with team-mates down the right and, upon reaching the right-hand corner of the Benfica box, attempts to curl one into the top left. He doesn’t quite catch it, and Artur gathers.
54 min: A bit better from Benfica, as Salvio goes on a baroque stroll down the right, cutting inside and laying off for Talisca. A promising move comes to naught with a dribbler of a shot from 25 yards, straight into Martinez’s hands.
52 min: Benfica are preparing a triple substitution. But there’s a hold up. Perhaps Wenger is telling Jesus that he can put three new players on, but doesn’t need to take anyone off. Because right now, this isn’t much of a pre-season test for Arsenal, as entertaining as it is for the fans.
51 min: Benfica are almost Brazilian in their ineptitude. Rosicky is allowed acres down the left side. He slides the ball on to Sanogo, who attempts to find Campbell in the middle with a fancy lob. It doesn’t come off, but the home fans are very much enjoying themselves.
GOAL! AND IT'S FOUR FOR SANOGO!!! Arsenal 5-0 Benfica (Sanogo 49)
Benfica are a sorry shower, but take nothing away from Arsenal. Campbell gathers a long ball down the right, and plays a clever reverse ball down the wing for Ramsey, who cuts into the box and hammers a low shot across Artur, with a view to scoring in the bottom-left corner. The keeper manages to parry, but there’s nobody there to clear, and Sanogo slots the loose ball into the empty net.
47 min: With stop buggering around in mind, Benfica win a corner down the right. Ramsey nearly plants a header into his own net, but the ball flies just wide right of goal. Then from the second set piece, Talisca attempts a clever flick and turn at the near post, but it doesn’t come off, and he runs the ball out of play.
And we’re off again! Arsenal make a change. Santi Cazorla comes on for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Benfica have clearly been told by Jorge Jesus to get back out there and stop buggering around.
Half-time entertainment: Courtesy of Arsène and the Wengerettes.
HALF TIME: Arsenal 4-0 Benfica
Believe it or not, Benfica looked decent for 20-odd minutes. What happened to that Benfica? Arsenal, meanwhile, were stunning. A lot of smiles around the Emirates right now.
HAT-TRICK GOAL! Arsenal 4-0 Benfica (Sanogo 45)
This is getting embarrassing now. Gibbs in space down the left. The ball’s whipped into the middle, where Sanogo doesn’t have to do much more than swing a leg to bundle it past several sleepwalking Benfica players and slowly into the net. The ball nestles apologetically in Benfica’s goal. Sanogo races off with a huge grin on his boat. A first-half hat-trick!
GOAL! Arsenal 3-0 Benfica (Sanogo 44)
The party pieces now. Oxlade-Chamberlain is sprung clear into the area down the right. He takes a heavy touch, allowing Artur to come off his line and smother, but the ball breaks back to Ramsey on the edge of the D. He scoops a pass to the left-hand side of the area, where Campbell is free. Campbell plays the ball across into the middle, where Sanogo sidefoots into an empty net. Brilliant.
43 min: Campbell should have had another here. Oxlade-Chamberlain exchanges a series of one-twos as he makes off down the pitch, veering right then back into the middle. Eventually he flicks a ball to the left for Campbell, clear on the left-hand edge of the area. He’s only got Artur to beat, Benfica to a man having scuttled across to Arsenal’s right wing for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s build-up moves. But he shanks wide left.
GOAL! Arsenal 2-0 Benfica (Campbell 40)
Oh this is a lovely goal. Bellerin exchanges a one-two with Sanogo down the right, and makes towards the area. He looks up, and lifts a ball towards Campbell, who is running in from the left. Meeting the ball on the edge of the area, Campbell fires solidly into the right-hand side of the net. Not full power: a measured finish. Exquisite. And what a build-up! Arsene Wenger didn’t really bother celebrating the first goal, but he’s up and clapping that one, with a smile plastered right across his coupon. He approves.
37 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain goes on a determined dribble down the middle of the park. He draws three defenders towards him, then pokes the ball through to release Sanogo, who is clear down the inside-left channel and preparing to round the advancing Artur on the edge of the area. But he’s flagged offside. That’s a piss-poor decision. He was half a yard on. And in any case, what happened to giving the attacker the benefit of the doubt?
34 min: And with grim predictability, having said that, Damian Martinez is forced into action for the first time in a while. A hopeless Benfica ball down the middle of the park clanks off Gaitan’s heel, and it breaks to Gaitan, tearing down the inside-right channel. Gaitan stretches a leg to toe-poke a first-time effort towards the bottom-right corner. Martinez is down quickly to parry and gather.
33 min: Benfica were looking sporadically dangerous before Sanogo’s dyspraxic Lee Sharpe homage. But they’ve done bugger all since. It’s not that their heads have dropped - it’s a friendly, I’m not sure they particularly care - but they’ve definitely taken their collective foot off the gas.
31 min: Ramsey really is a fantastic all-round midfielder. He spins in the centre circle to make some space and sprays a lovely low diagonal ball down the inside-right channel for Oxlade-Chamberlain. A bit too much juice on this one, but he’s lovely to watch. Always something going on.
29 min: Not much happening since the goal. Benfica lump it long into the Arsenal box, but John’s never getting on the end of that, despite his bustle at the left-hand post. Arsenal seem fairly pleased with their work so far.
GOAL! Arsenal 1-0 Benfica (Sanogo 26)
Simple but tricky. Ramsey makes room for himself down the right with a beautiful clip of his heel and turn. He romps down the pitch and makes for the box. Sanogo’s in the middle. Ramsey fires a low ball into the six-yard area past Artur, who had come off his line to close down the angle. Sanogo has his back to goal, but back-flicks the ball into the net, much in the manner Manchester United’s Lee Sharpe did against Barcelona all those years ago. A lovely finish!
24 min: Free kick for Benfica, just in front of the centre circle. Talisca lumps it into the box. Cesar attempts to flick the dropping ball into the bottom left. Monreal is spinning around like a teenager one-and-a-half cans into a Special Brew session. He’s got no idea what’s going on, and accidentally knocks the ball out of play, inches wide of the left-hand post. Turns out, though, he could have planted it into his own net and it would have made no difference, for Cesar was offside. Poor defending, mind you.
21 min: Monreal is booked for a cynical lunge on Gaitan in the centre circle, as Benfica looked to break upfield at speed. He can have no complaints, but makes a token one, just for show.
19 min: Eliseu looks to have pulled something in his groin. Now then, we’re all adults. He’s replaced by Benito. “The New York Red Bulls won this trophy five months after landing the 2010 Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic?” wonders Edward Stevenson, with reference to this report’s preamble. “So there actually is a Mickey Mouse Cup! Who knew?”
17 min: Two chances for Sanogo within a minute. First he powers down the left and opens Benfica up with a muscular turn. He’s on the edge of the area, but the ball snags under his feet. He attempts to feed Ramsey on the left, but the ball’s behind the midfielder, who had done well to get up in support. Then the next phase of play sees Bellerin zip down the right and whip a low ball towards the near post. Sanogo, sliding in, clunks wide right. A poor finish. But he’s looking lively.
16 min: Arsenal carve Benfica open with simple perfection. Ramsey, in the middle of the park, scoops a stunning pass down the inside-right channel to release Campbell. The Costa Rican star opens his body and attempts a first-time sidefoot into the bottom right. But he doesn’t get enough on the effort, and it flies wide right.
13 min: Bellerin channels his inner Garrincha, twisting this way and that on a long rococo run down the inside-right. He’s eventually crowded out before he can get a shot away, but at the expense of a corner. The ball’s hoicked out to Rosicky, on the edge of the box and level with the left-hand post. He takes a touch and screws an abysmal effort wide right. But this is entertaining stuff, with both teams looking dangerous in attack, and seemingly very uninterested in defence.
11 min: Gaitan makes a bit of space for himself down the right and from the byline pulls a low ball back into the centre for Pereira, who meets the ball first time and aims for the top left. He’s off target, but only just: with Martinez beaten, the ball shaves the top of the bar.
9 min: It’s end to end stuff. Arsenal are pressing Benfica back, but Benfica intercept and spring clear through Salvio, who feeds the busy John on the left. John cuts inside and winds up to shoot, but he’s dispossessed by Chambers. The ball’s lumped upfield. Sonogo powers down the inside-left channel, but can’t bust clear. For a second, he looked like tearing away from Cesar, but the move fizzles out.
6 min: John takes off down the left. He’s got the better of Bellerin, who is turned inside and out. John stands one up into the middle, but that’s easy pickings for Martinez.
4 min: Pereira embarks on a wee jig down the inside-right channel. A one-two and he’s attempting to break clear into the box. But Monreal and Gibbs close ranks to crowd him out. It’s open, as you’d expect a friendly match to be, and fairly exciting as well, which you may not.
2 min: Campbell has a probe down the right. Eliseu guides him inside. Campbell decides to hit the turf the minute he reaches the box. He’s very lightly shoved in the chest by Eliseu, but come along. The referee isn’t having any of it, and quite rightly so. But a promising start to the Arsenal career of one of the 2014 World Cup’s star turns.
And we’re off! Arsenal get the ball rolling. There’s nearly a cheer. To be fair, crowds would get pelters if they got too excited about matches like this, it’s a no-win situation for them.
The teams are out! Benfica are playing in their change strip of blue and neon purple, while Arsenal sport their famous red shirts with white sleeves. According to the BT Sport anchor Jake Humphrey, occasional Arsenal midfielder enjoyed “a hedonistic summer”. He had one cigarette! Is that what passes for hedonism these days? No wonder rock ‘n’ roll is a long-dead art form. Humphrey barely registering a 1 on the Frank Bough-o-Meter there.
And now a history lesson. For what it’s worth, here’s the Emirates Cup roll of honour:
2011: New York Red Bulls
For the record, the New York Red Bulls won this trophy five months after landing the 2010 Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic, held in 2011 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida. What a season that was.
The first game of the 2014 Emirates Cup is over. Valencia and Monaco have divvied up the spoils in a 2-2 draw. The first half was a festival of haplessness, Monaco taking the lead through a Ruben Vezo own goal, Valencia drawing level thanks to a gift from Ricardo Carvalho. In the second half, the teams reverted to the time-honoured practice of scoring for themselves, Paco Alcácer putting the Spanish club 2-1 up, and Lucas Ocampos pelting in a long-range equaliser. Both teams earn three points - one for the draw, another for each of their goals - but it’s Valencia who top the table right now, on account of having more shots at goal. Double maths on a Saturday afternoon.
And now the Benfica side: Artur, Amorim, Gaitan, Lima, Pereira, John, Salvio, Eliseu, Sidnei, Talisca, Cesar.
Subs: Derley, Lopes, Jara, Benito, Cancelo, Bebe, Almeida, Luis Felipe, Candeias, Teixeira.
The Arsenal team is in! Martinez, Bellerin, Chambers, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini, Campbell, Ramsey, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo.
Subs: Szczesny, Debuchy, Koscielny, Arteta, Wilshere, Giroud, Sanchez, Cazorla, Coquelin, Akpom, Miquel.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Here are Arsenal’s fans traipsing to the Emirates for today’s fixture ...
... and here are some Bolton Wanderers supporters heading towards Burnden Park 61 years ago.
LS Lowry won £250 for painting Football Ground, as it was initially known. It was entered, without the artist’s knowledge, in a competition held as part of the FA’s 90th anniversary celebrations. The PFA coughed the best part of £2m for the renamed Going to the Match in 1999. But anyway, we’ve wandered off piste here. The Emirates Cup, then, is it.
The modern pre-season friendly. An overblown, distended mess? A cynical cash-grabbing exercise? A bogus farce featuring 22 uninterested players plus substitutes various and plentiful? Well, yes, yes, yes, good points well made. But look at it the other way. Arsenal’s season starts next week. The Emirates Cup gives their exciting new squad one last chance to bind together before the action begins. And run-outs against Benfica and Monaco this weekend allow the Ashburton Grove faithful, bubbling with anticipation, to get their first glimpses of Alexis Sanchez, Joel Campbell, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina and Calum Chambers in the famous old Arsenal red and white. It’s on, people! It’s on!!!
Kick off: 4.20pm.
Days since World Cup final: 20