Urawa Red Diamonds 1-2 Arsenal: Podolski and Akpom strike in narrow pre-season win

Arsenal’s dominant run on their tour of Asia was narrowly concluded with an enjoyable 2-1 win over Urawa Red Diamonds.

Lukas Podolski capped off a delightful team move to score just after half-time before the hosts struck back with Yuki Abe from a corner but a terrible defensive mix-up allowed Chuba Akpom to sneak a slightly undeserved win.

There was good news for Arsenal fans as Jack Wilshere started for the first time on the Gunners’ tour, with Serge Gnabry and Ignasi Miquel also part of a strong but youthful XI.

The England midfielder nearly cost his side a goal early on, however, when a weak attempt to tackle Tsukasa Umesaki allowed the midfielder to fire just wide, setting the tone for an energetic game.

Arsenal replied dangerously, Theo Walcott breaking quickly down the right and dribbling through several players before placing his shot onto the far post.

Urawa roared back, Lukasz Fabianski doing just enough to intercept Tomoya Ugajin’s low cross before Per Mertesacker intervened to prevent Marcio Richardes from tapping in the rebound.

On 27 minutes, Walcott had a real chance as he burst onto a pass down the right but, when the angle was ripe for a calm finish, he instead blasted well over. Moments later, Olivier Giroud improvised when he spotted keeper Norihiro Yamagishi off his line and chipped from the far corner of the penalty area but saw it drop inches past the post.

The Gunners kept coming with real intent, Oxlade-Chamberlain volleying a finely struck long-ranger off the crossbar on 35 minutes.

After falling under the cosh for most of the half, Urawa closed it on a fine note, Ubojin bending a wicked shot towards the top corner, but Fabianski saved excellently to ensure the scores were level at the break.

It did not last long, however. A magnificent Arsenal move just after half-time brought the breakthrough, as Aaron Ramsey’s magnificent pass found Walcott in the box. Cool and aware, the forward held off defenders to play in substitute Podolski, who hammered home.

Walcott was denied shortly afterwards when he chased down a long pass and looked set to round Yamagishi to finish but the keeper snatched it from his feet.

Urawa were not diminished, Richardes forcing Fabianski into a sprawling save from a free kick, before the hosts broke through themselves. Failing to deal with a resulting corner, Arsenal allowed a flick-on to reach Abe, who finished powerfully to equalise.

With Arsenal having lost momentum and starting to make more changes, the game slowed but Podolski might have had a second when he shot waywardly in the 76th minute, having been supplied by Ramsey.

Laurent Koscielny was called upon to prevent a late winner for Urawa, recovering just in time to intercept after a dangerous counter, before the hosts showed the value of good defending by letting themselves down at the other end.

Yamagishi came out too eagerly to claim a hopeful long pass but his centre-back’s unhelpful header back to him could only be deflected right into the path of Akpom, who finished gratefully.

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