Mon, Aug 05, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Koscielny’s late header salvages draw for Arsenal

AFP, LONDON

SSC Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne scores against Arsenal in their Emirates Cup pre-season friendly at the Emirates Stadium in London, England, on Saturday.

Photo: EPA

Laurent Koscielny’s late header salvaged a 2-2 draw for Arsenal in their Emirates Cup clash with SSC Napoli on Saturday, but the Gunners’ inconsistent performance would have strengthened Arsene Wenger’s desire to improve his squad.

Wenger has so far failed to land any of his main transfer targets, including Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, and the frailties shown by a familiar looking lineup as the hosts fell behind to first-half goals from Lorenzo Insigne and Goran Pandev provided cause for concern.

To make matters worse, Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski had a penalty saved in the opening 45 minutes of the four-team pre-season tournament.

However, Gunners boss Wenger could at least draw some comfort from a much-improved second-half display that was capped by Olivier Giroud’s goal and then Koscielny’s equalizer in the final minutes.

Gonzalo Higuain’s presence in the Napoli squad served as a reminder of Arsenal’s failure to recruit during the close season, with the former Real Madrid striker opting for a move to Italy ahead of a switch to the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger’s focus has since switched to Suarez, but while a forward has been his priority, the way his defense performed during the opening 45 minutes served as a reminder of weaknesses elsewhere in his squad.

Both goals came as a result of poor defending and with Napoli repeatedly threatening on the break, there was much to concern Wenger.

Wenger has been linked with a move for Ashley Williams, the Swansea captain, and Arsenal scouts were in south Wales this week to watch the central defender in action in the Europa League tie with Malmo.

The display would only encourage further interest as Insigne’s third-minute opening goal came from an individual error by Carl Jenkinson.

The Gunners rightback inexplicably attempted to head a floated through ball back to goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, but succeeded only in looping the ball into the path of the Napoli winger, who volleyed home from close range.

Arsenal’s soft center was then exposed once more in the 28th minute when Marek Hamsik was allowed to advance unchallenged deep into the Arsenal half before releasing Pandev.

The Macedonia striker drifted away from Per Mertesacker far too easily and rounded Fabianski, before chipping the ball home.

In between those goals, Podolski had the opportunity to bring Arsenal back into the game from the penalty spot after Valon Behrami had brought down leftback Kieran Gibbs, but the Germany international failed to take the chance, striking the ball too close to Pepe Reina, who marked his first appearance back in England since his acrimonious loan move from Liverpool with a comfortable save.

Reina later saved well from Per Mertesacker’s header, while Jack Wilshere came close after the break with a right-foot shot after a fine run.

Arsenal were finally rewarded for their improved second-half showing when Giroud met Theo Walcott’s left-wing corner with an acrobatic overhead-kick in the 73rd minute.

Koscielny then claimed the leveler with three minutes left, following up after Reina had saved from Mertesacker.

Earlier in the day, Galatasaray beat Porto 1-0 thanks to a 70th-minute Felipe Melo penalty.

Porto twice missed from the spot, first through Jackson Martinez and then Lucho Gonzalez.

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