Angers SCO 1-1 Arsenal (Pens 3-4) : Gunners need penalties to see off Angers SCO
Reiss Nelson celebrates his equaliser with Granit Xhaka. Image by GettyImages/Jean-Francois Monier

Reiss Nelson’s second-half equaliser spared Unai Emery’s men their blushes following an early Farid El Malali goal.

The match went to penalties after 90 minutes and the shootout finished 3-4 after Emiliano Martinez saved former Gunner Jeff Rene Adelaide's spot-kick.

However, Arsenal may have some concerns for Nelson after it appeared the young winger left the field with a knock eight minutes from time.

The home side celebrated their 100th anniversary before kick-off, marking a special evening at the Raymond Copa stadium.

Arsenal struggle to keep possession 

The first half was largely dominated by the French side with the Gunners struggling to retain possession. 

New boy Gabriel Martinelli had a half-chance inside ten minutes, cutting inside from the right to have his shot blocked. 

The home side took the lead through El Malali after the Algerian picked up a through ball played between Shkodran Mustafi and Zech Medley by Baptiste Santamaria before rounding Emiliano Martinez to calmly finish.

Angers thought they had doubled their lead on 36 minutes. Great free-kick delivery by Thomas Mangani was flicked onto the foot of Mateo Pavlovic, who put the ball in the roof of the net for it to be ruled offside and disallowed. Medley was booked for the foul that led to this set piece.

Arsenal’s only real chance of the half came just before the 40-minute mark. Mustafi picked up the ball on the left before whipping a cross in towards Martinelli at the near post who glanced his header just wide of the far post.

All change at half time

Clearly unimpressed with what he had seen, Emery sent the team out with no less than five changes.

SokratisJoe WillockAinsley Maitland-NilesGranit Xhaka and Dominic Thompson replaced Medley, Tyreece John-JulesCallum ChambersRobbie Burton and Nacho Monreal.

Substitutions make an instant impact

The second half brought a different narrative with Arsenal taking control of the possession and starting to play their game comfortably. 

It took all of five minutes to achieve the desired impact. Matteo Guendouzi whipped in a ball from the right-hand side which was met by Eddie Nketiah who had his effort saved from close.

Nelson was lurking in the box to pounce on the rebound, slotting home to draw Arsenal level on 50 minutes.

Angers almost replied instantly after a surging run from former Arsenal man Jeff Rene Adelaide was met by a sliding challenge from Mustafi, putting his effort out of danger.

Arsenal introduced Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Henrik Mkhitaryan on the hour mark in place of Nketiah and Guendouzi.

The Gunners thought they had pulled ahead through Aubameyang but the Gabon international’s tap in from Nelson’s attempted shot was ruled out for offside.

Worryingly, it seemed Nelson hurt himself during his attempted shot and was immediately withdrawn for James Olayinka.

With ten minutes to go, Mkhitaryan saw a curled shot from the edge of the box pushed into the path of Aubameyang who missed an open goal, blasting his effort over the crossbar. 

The 90 minutes finished one apiece to take the match to penalties.

Martinez saves to claim the victory

The teams were neck and neck until the fourth round of penalties. Aubameyang calmly converted his spot-kick but Angers substitute Wilfried Kanga blasted his effort over the bar. 

With the win in sight, Mkhitaryan stepped up but managed to follow Wilfried Kanga’s effort over the bar. Rene-Adelaide needed to score to keep Angers hopes alive against his former club, but Martinez got down to claim both the ball and the win for the Gunners.

Takeaways from the match

Nelson looks sharp:

After a few exciting moments against Lyon on Sunday, Reiss Nelson’s pace and flair was a problem at times for the Angers defence.

His efforts were rewarded with a goal and he was unlucky not to have two. While he may not be in line for a starting position with Nicolas Pepe due to be announced as an Arsenal player tomorrow.

Fans will be looking forward to seeing the youngster make a lethal impact from the bench. Arsenal fans will be hoping his substitution was only precautionary. 

Granit Xhaka’s impact:

Xhaka’s introduction and Arsenal’s turnaround in dominance in the second half was no coincidence. The Swiss midfielder controlled the midfield, dictated the tempo and played the simple yet effective passing game he is known for.

Widely expected to take over the captaincy from the outgoing Laurent Koscielny, Xhaka looks set to be an instrumental part of Emery’s game plan this season.

Stand Out Players

El Malawi enjoyed a good performance against the Gunners, grabbing a goal and being a worry to the visitors’ back four. 

Xhaka changed the game when he came on and calmed a nervy midfield after Guendouzi and Burton struggled to control the middle of the park in the first half. 

Reiss Nelson also deserves a mention for being lively and bagging the equalising goal. 

One more to go

Arsenal have one more pre-season test against Barcelona before they kick off their Premier League campaign against Newcastle on the 11th August.

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