Teenager Akpom spares Arsenals blushes
A late winner from 17-year-old substitute Chuba Akpom rescued Arsenal Friday as the Gunners completed their Asian tour with a 2-1 win over Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds.
At 1-1 with eight minutes left, Arsenal's 100 percent record in Asia was under threat but Akpom capitalised on a defensive blunder to slot the decisive goal.
Arsenal were held scoreless for 49 minutes before Lukas Podolski's opener, which was cancelled out by Japanese international Yuki Abe 10 minutes later.
Akpom's late strike then ensured a winning finish to Arsenal's tour, which earlier took in Jakarta, Hanoi and a game against Japan's Nagoya Grampus, former club of manager Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal hammered seven goals past both the Indonesian Dream Team and Vietnam, and beat Nagoya 3-1, but they found life tougher against former Asian champions Urawa.
The hosts showed their pedigree early on but Theo Walcott fired against the post and had a follow-up shot cleared off the line as the Gunners found their feet.
The England winger blazed over with only the goalkeeper to beat and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, fed by Per Mertesacker after a corner, went closer when his dipping shot clipped the bar.
At the other end, Urawa's Tomoya Ugajin had Arsenal 'keeper Lucasz Fabianski at full stretch with a curling shot as the Gunners finished the the half goalless for the first time on tour.
Wenger rang the changes at half-time and the second period was just four minutes old when two of the newcomers helped break the deadlock.
Aaron Ramsey's ball into the box was teed up by Walcott and lashed home by German international Podolski with a picture-book strike to put the visitors ahead.
Walcott passed up two more golden chances when he shot harmlessly at Norihiro Yamagishi, and then failed to round the Urawa 'keeper with the goal at his mercy.
And Urawa made Arsenal pay when the ball fell to Abe from a corner and the midfielder swept home an unstoppable shot from inside the box.
Urawa were in the ascendancy with Arsenal's defence suddenly under threat from the home team, who lie fourth in the table midway through the J-League season.
Arsenal then steadied and Podolski should have put them back in front with 15 minutes remaining. But he slightly mistimed his shot after being picked out by Ignasi Miquel.
Shinya Yajima had a hopeful penalty shout 10 minutes from time but Urawa were then left to rue a defender's howler which cost them what would have been a credible draw.
Mitsuru Nagata's header back to Yamagishi under pressure could only be palmed away by the Urawa 'keeper, and Akpom was on hand to cooly slot his fourth goal of the tour.
"We wanted a competitive game, we were not disappointed, because we played with good pace, defended very well, and we were very sharp on counter-attacks," said Wenger, after the game.
"So it was a good test for us. We created many chances, but I'd like to congraturate Urawa Reds, because they played very well."
Meanwhile, Urawa coach Mihailo Petrovic said: "I'm happy to play against Arsenal. We showed a good game and we played our own game. Unfortunately, we couldn't win."
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