Thierry Henry returned to Arsenal and lifted a piece of silverware - unfortunately for the trophy-starved home fans it was in the colours of the New York Red Bulls as a 1-1 draw saw the MLS side secure the Emirates Cup on Sunday...
In front of a capacity crowd of 60,011 in the blazing hot sunshine of a late July afternoon, the Red Bulls showcased their MLS talent, recovering from going a goal down to Robin van Persie’s first-half header to equalise through a late own goal from Arsenal’s Kyle Bartley, with Henry of course claiming an assist.
‘It's been emotional for Thierry coming back home and he's been massive for us' – Hans Backe
Besides the returning Henry, the Red Bulls included in their line-up former Premier League player Teemu Tainio, though the reception the ex-Tottenham Hotspur player received was rather less rapturous than the one afforded Henry – Arsenal's record goalscorer in eight hugely successful seasons.
Henry rolled back the years with a turn and shot narrowly wide of the far post early on and then saw a free-kick kept out by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny as the Red Bulls, buoyed no doubt by the previous day’s 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain, began well, and were certainly not overawed by the illustrious company they found themselves in.
Most of the action was at the other end, however, with Benik Afobe’s turn and shot saved by Frank Rost, while Chris Albright resorted to what appeared to be foul means to stop new signing Gervinho scoring, although no penalty was given.
‘We knew before we came that we wanted to put on a big performance, that we were representing MLS’ – Rafael Marquez
Arsenal claimed the lead they were due through Van Persie after the Dutchman headed Tomas Rosicky’s free-kick past Rost. It was Van Persie’s second goal in the pre-season tournament after he had opened the scoring in the 2-2 draw against Boca a day earlier.
Rost was at fault for his positioning but atoned moments later when he saved from Gervinho after the Arsenal striker was put through one on one.
The Red Bulls introduced hot prospect Juan Agudelo 10 minutes into the second half, but the Gunners, now just two weeks away from the big English Premier League kick-off on August 13, carried the majority of the threat.
'We haven’t done well lately and we need to start winning again. We’re all there to win the MLS title so hopefully this will give us the boost' – Teemu Tainio
Hans Backe introduced another forward, John Rooney, younger brother of Manchester United striker Wayne, cue the boos, with just over 10 minutes to go, but the team from the MLS were pinned back for large periods of the half.
It was a surprise then when Red Bulls equalised with just five minutes remaining, though Henry was the inevitable architect.
He released Agudelo in the inside left position with a precision pass and the latter’s cross was turned into his own net by the unfortunate substitute Bartley.
‘We’ve enjoyed the tournament and we’ve won it which is a surprise for everyone’ – Rafael Marquez
The visitors held out for the remaining few minutes before being crowned the winners of this year’s Emirates Cup, the team from New York surprising many but giving an indicator of the growing strength of Major League Soccer in America.
Amid an explosion of confetti came the hoisting of the trophy, before Henry soaked up the warm applause of the Arsenal supporters – many thousands of whom stayed behind to wave goodbye, for now at least, to one of their favourite ever sons.
Arsenal 1 (Van Persie, 42) New York Red Bulls 1 (Bartley OG, 84)
Saturday, July 31, Emirates Stadium, London, UK
Arsenal - Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna (Emmanuel Eboue 74), Laurent Koscielny (Kyle Bartley 74), Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Song, Jack Wilshere (Benik Afobe, 7 (Andrey Arshavin, 74)), Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Gervinho (Marouane Chamakh, 65), Robin van Persie (Carlos Vela, 65)
New York Red Bulls - Frank Rost, Chris Albright (John Rooney, 78), Carlos Mendes (Stephen Keel, 45), Tim Ream, Roy Miller, Rafael Marquez, Dane Richards, Teemu Tainio (Juan Agudelo, 55), Dax McCarty, Jan Gunnar Solli, Thierry Henry