BY PAUL LAGAN – at Aviva Stadium in Dublin
Chelsea’s German centre-back Antonio Rudiger opened the scoring before Alexander Lacazette equalised with the last kick of the game tonight in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. A near faultless penalty shootout by the west Londoners almost won it but Ruben Loftus-Cheek saw his kick saved by Petr Cech and the Gooners ran out 6-5 winners.
The pre-season match was a good chance to see the development of new head coach Maurizio Sarri’s style of play. But in the absence of the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard and Willian, all away on holiday, it’s still unclear if the 4:4:3 formation – a radical departure from last season under Antonio Conte will work with these players.
Five minutes in a Cesc Fabregas’s pinged a beauty of a left footer from the edge of the Arsenal penalty area, which ex-Blue Petr Cech brilliantly parried away for a corner. From the resultant kick, the ball by Fabregas, was met powerfully on the head of an unmarked Antonio Rudiger who zipped the ball past Cech to open the scoring.
Alvaro Morata, was saved from the embarrassment of missing a sitter on 10 minutes, having been set up by Pedro and Fabregas. The Spanish striker conspired to miscue the ball from close range. But he was narrowly adjusted to have slipped offside.
It got worse for Morata five minutes later when he missed a penalty.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, a thorn in the Arsenal flanks with his speed was hauled by Hector Bellerin in the penalty area.
Up stepped the striker from the spot but it was weak and straight into the path of Cech who tipped it easily away to safety.
Arsenal then entered a period of play where they had plenty of possession, but little cutting edge up front.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a case in point when he failed to latch onto a perfectly placed ball by Henrikh Mkhitaryan on 33 minutes.
Hudson-Odoi raced clear four minutes before the break, but Cech’s experience told and he smothered the winger’s shot.
The north Londoners should have levelled seconds later after Willy Caballero failed to get to a cross, but Sead Kolasinac’s shot was goal-bound but blocked for a corner by Cesar Azpilicueta.
Danny Drinkwater and Andreas Christensen replaced Fabregas and Luiz.
Both side played expansive football soon after the restart, with Rudiger inches away from repeating his goal – this time on 58 minutes – he was just the wrong side of Cech’ s left upright with his header.
The chaos of the pre-season matches occurred on 63 minutes when on came Emerson for Alonso, Ethan Ampadu for Rudiger, Moses for Pedro, Tammy Abraham for Morata and Davide Zappacosta for Azpilicueta.
Morata had a stinker and perhaps deserved to be replaced, the others did okay and will be well rested for Sunday’s Community Shield match, at Wembley against Manchester City.
Arsenal sub Alexander Lacazette should have equalised on 76 minutes when he scythed through the Chelsea rearguard. His low, right-footer beat Caballero, but just went wide of goal.
That was the Argentina goalkeeper’s last involvement by Marcin Bulka, Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced Jorginho and Tiemoue Bakayoko replaced Barkley.
The young Polish goalkeeper made a spectacular save Alex Iwobi with his first touch of the ball with six minutes remaining.
Hudson-Odoi’s excellent night ended a minute later, Lucas Piazon taking his place.
The 17-year-old is too young to drink the man-of-the-match Champagne.
With the last touch of the 90 minutes, Lacazette tucked home for Arsenal and then won the penalty shootout.
Caballero, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso, Fabregas, Jorginho, Barkley, Morata, Pedro, Azpilicueta, Hudson-Odoi
Subs: Bulka, Green, Drinkwater, Loftus-Cheek, Bakayoko, Moses, Musonda, Abraham, Zappacosta, Christensen, Piazon, Emerson, Ampadu
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Elneny, Papastathopoulos, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Kolasinac
Subs: Leno, Lacazette, Maitland-Nile’s, Holding, Iwobi, Chambers, Mavropanos, Nelson, Nketiah, Smith Rowe
Referee Paul McLaughlin