The Arsenal Legends strode back into view with a win over Real Madrid Legends, as many of our heroes took to the pitch once more in an Arsenal shirt.
Many luminaries of different generations were on display for 90 minutes, and while The Emirates wasn’t full, considering this was a charity fixture, a good deal of Gooners made the game and filled a fair whack of the ground.
Bobbi, Pires, he of the fantastic goals and swagger that took The Arsenal to new levels in the 2000’s, was captain of the side, and he had many others to boost our chances of getting revenge for the previous fixture played at the Bernabeu, which ended 2-1 to Real.
There was Tomas Rosicky, a massive fan favourite. Nigel Winterburn, icon and part of the famous Arsenal back five. Jens Lehmann, the slightly unhinged keeper who is part of The Invincibles. There were more Invincibles too. There were title winners, there were heroes from yesteryear, it was memories made tangible.
Real Madrid were hardly sparsely populated though. Raul, Fernando Morientes, Ivan Campo, they had plenty to call upon.
The game was played at a pace more accustomed to a friendly, and unlike the first game, we had the majority of possession, but in terms of action at either goalmouth, it was at a premium.
Strangely, we had Jeremie Aliadiere at right-back for the first half, but it wasn’t until the second half that the reason became apparent.
It’s because the Frenchman is still fast, and when he replaced Davor Suker up top, he showed it and gave the Real backline a torrid time by himself.
There was a bit of argy-bargy too, as Hillier went in on Rivera and the Real man took exception to the challenge and confronted Hillier, who merely shrugged it off.
Subs came and went and we got to see Anders Limpar, David Hillier and Perry Groves of our title-winning 1991 team, and Real also made rolling changes, with Emile Butragueno amongst the replacements.
The game looked to be petering out as both sides ran out of puff, and if the game ended all square, then penalties would ensure an exciting end.
That was exactly how it wound up, and Robert Pires, Matthew Upson, Gilles Grimandi and XX stepped up to smash home their efforts, and Alfonso Perez crucially saw his saved by Jens.
This meant the next penalty would win it. Tomas Rosicky started to run toward the spot, but Jens had other ideas, and in true madcap style, he decreed he would take the deciding spot-kick instead.
The crowd were on edge, but we shouldn’t have worried, as Lehmann lashed home to give us the win, and the crowd responded in kind.
All proceeds will go to The Arsenal Foundation, and there will be plenty who will benefit, but all who attended will attest that this was a success and it was a unique window to revisit memories and see those who achieved much for our club in action again.