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Arsenal vs Sydney FC Match Review

With the first pre-season game also comes the beginning of what (genuinely this time) could be Arsene Wenger's last opportunity to seize league or European success as Arsenal manager. While pre-season friendlies often carry little to no relevance – it's possible to have a terrific summer of friendly wins, followed by a disappointing season, as Arsenal fans are well aware – they are also a great opportunity to give certain players a chance to show what they can do, and for new players to bed in, and in Arsenal's first game of their Australian tour, that's exactly what supporters got to see.On July 13th, the Gunners made their way to ANZ Stadium Sydney, where they came up against Sydney FC, an Australian side (obviously) who play their football in the Australian Premier League (also, obviously).The game drew a huge crowd, as these games tend to do, and thankfully for the gathered supporters, the game ended up being an entertaining encounter, with Arsenal coming out 2-0 victors on the day.The undoubted highlight of the game was new signing Alexandre Lacazette scoring on his non-competitive debut.The striker, who arrived on a huge £57 million deal to become Arsenal's record signing earlier this Summer, netted within 15 minutes of coming off the substitutes bench late on to begin his time in an Arsenal shirt in style.Until the Frenchman's strike, it looked like a goal from the (admittedly unlikely) source of Per Mertesacker in the 4th minute would be the difference between the sides at the final whistle.The German defender, continuing his good form following his talismanic performance in the FA Cup Final victory against Chelsea, put Arsenal ahead early on when he managed to acrobatically punt the ball into the corner from close-range following Sydney's failure to clear a Mesut Ozil corner from the right hand side.Arsenal kept themselves in the ascendancy following Mertesacker's strike, with Theo Walcott causing trouble, with two efforts coming close.Against the run of play, Sydney almost levelled before the end of the first half when Josh Brilliante, eh, brilliantly made his way past the last defender Mertesacker, and forced Petr Cech into action, who parried the ball away to the feet of Matt Simon, who clipped the post with his rebounded effort.Arsenal responded quickly, and Sydney keeper Andrew Redmayne was kept busy, stopping efforts from Walcott and Francis Coquelin before the half was finished, with Arsenal going in at the break with a one goal advantage.The second half began with the lively Walcott once again narrowly missing the Sydney goal, this time blazing a ball just over the bar following terrific build-up play from Reiss Nelson.Arsenal sub goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was the tested, but comfortably saved Chris Zuvela's effort at the other end.The most controversial moment of the game then occurred, when Arsenal were awarded a questionable spot-kick.A well-worked Arsenal move seen Danny Welbeck setting up Walcott, who looked to be in his best position so far and likely to score, was denied by Sydney's Sebastian Ryall, who threw himself in the way of the shot to block with his back - which the referee deemed to be a handball - and pointed to the spot.One can see how the referee would find the decision difficult to make, but upon repeat viewings, it would appear that Ryall's block was fair and a penalty should not have been given.One could argue that justice was done, then, when Welbeck's penalty was saved by the impressive Redmayne, down to his right.Following this event and with 22 minutes remaining, Arsenal's new striker Lacazette made his way onto the ANZ Stadium pitch for his first run out as an Arsenal player.One would expect after paying as significant of fee as was paid for the diminutive Frenchmen, that you are getting quality, but the hype-machine went into overdrive when with seven minutes remaining, Lacazette scored his first Arsenal goal.Victory was sealed when substitute Alex Iwobi made a fine run down the right flank, and then squared the ball into the Gunner's onrushing newest addition, who connected with the ball in the box and slotted home a low-driven finish.With the game sealed up, the only remaining moment of note was Martinez making a tidy save in the dying moments to prevent Aaron Calver from grabbing a consolation from close range.The full time whistle was blown, and Arsenal came out as expected winners, with Sydney giving a good account of themselves in what was a good test for the North Londoners.So what did we learn from the match? Well, for one thing, the youth got the chance to play, and they did a good job doing what they were asked to do.Youngsters Cohen Bramall, Krystian Bielik and Edward Nketiah made their impact known for Arsenal, with all three performing well in the game. They will hope to have begun to put themselves into real contention to feature in Arsene Wenger's plans this season following a good start to their pre-season.Also; although Lacazette's playing time was short-lived, he was lively and of course, put his name on the scoresheet with a good finish. His positioning for the goal was impressive, and something fans will hope to see a lot more of as the season progresses.Overall, Wenger will be happy with his side's performance. As noted at the beginning, these games can be of little or no relevance once the season begins – but nonetheless, Arsenal's (pre) season is off to a winning start.