Arsenal thrashed Lyon 3-0 and won their penalty shootout to earn all four points in their opening game at the Dubai Super Cup.
Arsenal put out a senior lineup to face Lyon in their first public match of the World Cup break on Thursday, with internationals like Kieran Tierney, Mohamed Elneny, and Martin Odegaard back in the side after representing their countries last month.
Fabio Vieira was also involved after his games with the Portugal u21s just over two weeks ago.
The game was part of the Dubai Super Cup, a friendly mini-tournament between Arsenal, Lyon, AC Milan, and Liverpool.
In the first half, there were plenty of top performances, as Arsenal raced into a 3-0 lead.
Reiss Nelson hit the post in the early stages, set up by Eddie Nketiah, who would have been keen to make a positive impression following Gabriel Jesus’ injury.
Vieira then had a great chance, after a clever reverse pass from Odegaard, but he put his shot straight at the goalkeeper.
But it didn’t take long for the dam to break, with Gabriel Magalhaes powering home a header from an Odegaard corner for 1-0.
Tierney, Vieira, and Nketiah all had half-chances to add to the lead, before Arsenal made it 2-0 just after the half-hour mark.
Albert Sambi Lokonga played a clever long ball to spring Vieira away, and he squared a pass for Nketiah to pass into the bottom corner.
Not long after that, Vieira got in on the goals as well. After a lovely move involving nine of Arsenal’s 11 players, Nelson laid the ball off for Vieira, who curled a shot in at the near post from outside the box.
Gabriel headed another opportunity wide in the minutes after that, and the half ended 3-0 to Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta only made one change at the break, with Marquinhos coming on for Vieira – who had been making his first appearance back in action, unlike most of the rest of the team who played in the behind-closed-doors game against Watford.
Nketiah almost added his second goal of the game with a nice finish, but he was ruled marginally offside. Marquinhos then hit the bar from outside the area with a great shot that was saved by the Lyon goalkeeper’s fingertips.
Mohamed Elneny left that goalkeeper flat-footed when another effort, but his shot went just wide, before Marquinhos had another great chance as the ball fell to him with only a defender to beat – but he hit the side netting.
After that, Arsenal substituted the entire team barring goalkeeper Karl Hein and Marquinhos, bringing on the u21s for a first-team opportunity.
Arsenal were initially under some pressure after the changes, and Hein had to be alert to make a strong claim on a corner. But the young Gunners started to make some chances of their own.
First Ethan Nwaneri shot wide, then Catalin Cirjan hit the post, with Nathan Butler-Oyedeji seeing his shot blocked on the rebound. From the subsequent corner, Nwaneri tested the goalkeeper with a shot.
Lyon almost pulled a goal back after that, but Lino Sousa made a fantastic last-ditch challenge to deny a simple chance.
Sousa then got up the other end and crossed for Amario Cozier-Duberry, who headed wide. Cozier-Duberry then ended a mazy run by setting up Butler-Oyedeji, who shot just over.
The u21s arguably deserved a goal for their efforts, but it was enough to end the game 3-0 winners and take the three points.
Regardless of the result, there is always a penalty shootout in this competition for a bonus point.
Matt Smith won the coin toss and elected for Arsenal to shoot first, with Marquinhos converting the opening spot-kick confidently.
Former Gunner Jeff Reine-Adelaide then stepped up, but Hein made a great save down to his right to keep Arsenal ahead, before Smith scored to make it 2-0.
Thiago Mendes scored for Lyon to pull one back, in what turned out to be the final goal of the shootout.
Cirjan tried an ill-advised panenka into the goalkeeper’s arms, before Tete forced another great save from Hein. Cozier-Duberry’s effort was saved as well, before Hein made another save from Bradley Barcola.
Reuell Walters had the chance to win the shootout for Arsenal, but he skied his effort.
Fortunately, Rayan Cherki then took easily the worst penalty of the night, another attempt at a panenka that barely made it to Hein’s waiting grasp. After 10 penalties, Arsenal won the shootout 2-1.
Arsenal vs Lyon Man of the Match
This award must go to Karl Hein, after his clean sheet and four penalties saved.
The goalkeeper took some unfair criticism for his League Cup performance against Brighton, where his only real mistake was an unfortunate slip, but he showed his quality this time around.
The Estonia international was confident in possession and in coming out to claim the few balls Lyon put into the box. In the shootout, he looked imperious.
Matt Turner is likely to come back into the team at some point over the next week, but Hein has proven he can do a job if called upon.
Dubai Super Cup Group standings
Dubai Super Cup Fixtures
- Sunday, December 11th, 14:00: Liverpool vs Lyon
- Tuesday, December 13th, 14:00: Arsenal vs AC Milan
- Friday, December 16th, 15:30: Liverpool vs AC Milan