ARSENAL (1) vs NEW YORK RED BULLS (1)
Former Gunner denied cameo for his old team but has the final say
THEY might have flocked to see him and swooned at his every touch, but Arsenal fans probably didn’t bargain for their returning hero Thierry Henry spoiling their afternoon.
The Gunners’ all-time record scorer, visiting as captain of New York Red Bulls, bashfully soaked up the applause as he coasted through 85 minutes of home dominance, capped by Robin van Persie’s header.
Then, with one nonchalant pass, he prised an opening that led to Kyle Bartley’s equalising own goal and snatched the Emirates Cup from Arsenal’s grasp – prompting some in the crowd to turn against Arsene Wenger’s men.
It might have been very different, had Henry been granted his wish to play the closing stages for Arsenal. But referee Kevin Friend rejected a half-time plea from Wenger to allow the French striker a cameo.
“We wanted to him to play in the last five minutes for us,” Wenger admitted. “He was desperate to do it, but the referees stubbornly turned it down. They told us that the rules are absolutely, adamantly against it because one player cannot play for two teams in the same game.”
Henry added: “I’m not even going to talk about it because there are some stupid rules.”
Forced to play the last few minutes for his current team, he put them to good effect, crafting a pass that released Roy Miller, whose cross beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Reserve defender Bartley, on for the last 20 minutes in only his second Gunners appearance, stuck out a boot in an effort to intercept but succeeded only in diverting the ball into the roof of the net.
Arsenal invited the collapse, just as they had in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Boca Juniors, by taking their foot off the gas when ahead with half an hour still to play – yet Wenger was unconcerned.
“On both days, we played very well for an hour,” he said. “We have nothing more to offer at the moment. Hopefully that will change in the next two weeks.”
Arsenal did indeed dominate for the first two thirds, but had only Van Persie’s unchallenged header from the effervescent Tomas Rosicky’s floated free-kick to show for it, before Henry intervened.
“They say great clubs never die and it looks like great players never die,” Wenger added. “Thierry has shown us today that he is still top quality with his feet and with his head.”