Arsenal Win Markus Liebherr Cup Despite Losing to Southampton on Penalties
Arsene Wenger made wholesale changes (nine in all) to the side that had defeated Anderlecht 1-0 in the opener of the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup, and despite seeing the new-look XI go down to hosts Southampton 5-4 on penalties, Arsenal were still crowned champions of the tournament.
(Southampton had lost 1-0 to Anderlecht in the opening match).
Arsenal's official website, which had a reporter on hand at St. Mary's Stadium to give live updates for the games, each of which lasted 45 minutes, tweeted that the last match of the competition, comprising two teams who will face each other at least twice next season in Premier League play, was "more high-tempo" than the Arsenal-Anderlecht encounter.
The hosts' fans were in full voice, but Arsenal's traveling contingent gave a good account of themselves as well, with the club's reporter claiming that the boisterous bunch of Gooners had been "superb all evening."
Despite dominating the early portions of the match—the Gunners were "stroking the ball about nicely"—Southampton grabbed the opener in the 31st minute through Jay Rodriguez, signed from Burnley earlier in the summer for a club-record £7 million.
It was just rewards for the hosts, who had seen a venomous free kick fumbled by Vito Mannone and saved off the line by a quick-thinking Kyle Bartley just one minute before.
Another Gunners youngster, 21-year-old Henri Lansbury, who had scored Arsenal's lone goal in the Anderlecht match, made way for highly-rated Swedish youngster Kristoffer Olsson in the 16th minute.
Lansbury, loaned to West Ham United last season, had nearly notched his second goal of the tournament against Southampton, but was unable to touch past keeper Tommy Forecast after latching onto a lofted ball over the defense.
Arsenal immediately began pressing for an equalizer, and found it within four minutes.
Gervinho, so maligned last season for what many Arsenal fans deemed an insufficient return from his £10 million transfer from Lille last July, scored a fantastic goal in the 35th minute.
After playing a neat one-two with Andre Santos that sent the winger down the left wing, Gervinho deftly skipped past a desperate sliding effort before just managing to save the ball from going out for a goalkick.
Collecting himself, Gervinho cut away from the end line, faking not once, but twice, and thoroughly wrong-footed the arriving Saints defender before unleashing a low drive past keeper Forecast to make it 1-1.
It was a terrific finish from Gervinho, who had also fired a searing drive over Forecast's goal in the 20th minute.
Both sides pressed hard for a winner in the final 10 minutes, but penalty kicks were in order after neither managed to break the deadlock.
Santos, Francis Coquelin, Olsson and Craig Eastmond all converted their penalties, but were matched goal-for-goal by Southampton's Danny Fox, Rodriguez, Danny Seaborne and Richard Chaplow.
The Saints, who had gone first, then converted their fifth penalty through Dean Hammond.
Lorenzo Ebicilio, tasked with keeping Arsenal in the shootout, then missed his spot-kick, but it mattered little, as the Gunners still were crowned champions of the Memorial Cup.
The side collected the trophy minutes later, and "sprayed champagne around in celebration," according to the official website.
Wenger used 22 players during Arsenal's two matches in the tournament. Sead Hajrovic was the only member of the 23-man group not to feature. (Martin Angha was a 29th-minute substitute for Chuks Aneke in the Southampton match).
Arsenal: Mannone, Meade, Santos, Eastmond, Lansbury (replaced by Olsson in 16'), Ebicilio, Djourou (c.), Coquelin, Gervinho, Aneke, Bartley
Substitutes: Martinez, Eisfeld, Angha, Olsson, Hajrovic
Southampton: Forecast, Butterfield, Fox, Hammond, Seaborne, Stephens, Puncheon, Ward-Prowse, Rodriguez, Chaplow, De Ridder
Substitutes: Davis, Harding, Reeves, Robinson, Hoskins
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