Arsenal rounded off their tour of America with a penalty shootout defeat after being pegged back by Real Madrid on a mixed night for Gareth Bale in an eventful friendly in Maryland.
Bale came on at half-time, just days after his controversial last-minute withdrawal from Madrid’s friendly against Bayern, and inspired Real Madrid’s second-half comeback from 2-0 down to take the game to penalties.
Both sides also ended the first half with 10 men as Nacho for Real and then Sokratis for Arsenal were dismissed, both for receiving two yellow cards.
Alexandre Lacazette (centre) is congratulated by his team-mates after scoring for Arsenal
After leading the fight-back, Bale then saw his opening spot-kick for Madrid saved, only to see Granit Xhaka, Nacho Monreal and youngster Robbie Burton also fluff their lines from 12 yards as the Spanish giants prevailed 3-2 on penalties.
Arsenal took a 10th-minute lead from the penalty spot. They were awarded the spot-kick after defender Nacho was adjudged to have used his hand as he blocked Lacazette’s shot on the line.
After Arsenal protests, Nacho was eventually sent off for a second bookable offence before Lacazette’s effort just about crossed the line after hitting both posts.
Arsenal were in total control with their one-man advantage and went 2-0 up in the 24th minute when Aubameyang rounded Keylor Navas to score after being brilliantly flicked through by his strike partner.
Gareth Bale came on at half-time and made an immediate impact, scoring Real’s first goal
Arsenal then went down to 10 men themselves when Sokratis was shown two yellow cards in two minutes for quick-fire fouls on Toni Kroos and then Luka Modric and the momentum swung again.
Gareth Bale came off the bench at half time and made it 2-1 with 11 minutes of the restart, stabbing in after Emiliano Martinez was unable to hold onto Marco Asensio’s effort.
Two minutes later Asensio then made it 2-2 when he turned in Marcelo’s cut back.
Here, Sportsmail‘s ADRIAN KAJUMBA takes us through five things we learned from the pre-season friendly in Maryland…
Zinedine Zidane may not like him, despite his failed attempts to convince anyone his treatment of the Welshman is not personal, but Real Madrid’s American following certainly do.
They rallied around Bale on his return to the Madrid squad after he was not involved against Bayern Munich and accused of not wanting to get changed for the game by Zidane.
He started on the bench and was not part of the pre-match warm up but the ‘will-he, won’t he’ debate about whether he would appear was eventually answered when he walked out to take his place on the bench.
Bale was then greeted with a standing ovation from a section of the Madrid fans as he headed down the tunnel for a quick break. He came on at half-time, appearing to blank Zidane when he came over as Bale received instructions from another member of Madrid’s coaching staff, and played like a man with a point to prove.
The Real fans were showing their appreciation again when he kick-started the Spaniard’s fight-back with their first goal and then completed an impressive second-half contribution with a goal-line clearance to deny Calum Chambers.
Some of the gloss was taken off with his missed penalty in the shootout, but regardless of whether he stays or goes this summer the love he received from Madrid’s fans in Maryland is much more like how you would expect somebody who has achieved all he has at the club to be treated.
Bale started on the bench and was not involved on the warm-up but came on at half-time
The Welshman (obscured) fires past Emiliano Martinez to kick-start Real Madrid’s comeback
Willock impresses again
Another big name opponent, another opportunity for Joe Willock. In the absence of Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, and Mohamed Elneny, the youngster has been handed a number of chances to stake his claim, not least against Bayern Munich and now Real Madrid.
He is the one youngster Unai Emery has pushed more than any other by including him in Arsenal’s two biggest games of the tour and there was more evidence of why against the Spanish giants.
Willock looked comfortable against such illustrious opponents, always showing for the ball and never rushed in possession. He was energetic, all-action, creative and not afraid to vacate his central midfield position to support play whether further forward or in wide areas.
The aforementioned trio will return over the next couple of weeks and Dani Ceballos will increase the competition once he completes his loan move from Madrid but Willock has done his chances no harm in the meantime.
Joe Willock has been thrown in at the deep end and proven himself more than capable
The Arsenal youngster puts in a tackle on Real Madrid stalwart Toni Kroos during the clash
Unai Emery will look back on this tour with plenty of satisfaction despite this ‘defeat’ to finish. Four games, three wins, 10 goals scored and three conceded. All his players have got plenty of minutes in testing conditions, some of his younger players have given him food for thought, particularly Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah, and there should be good news on the transfer front too with deals for William Saliba and Dani Ceballos close to completion.
The ICC could also yield his first piece of silverware as Arsenal boss, albeit not one of the big ones that will be anything to really shout about. Each team plays three times in the competition and Arsenal return to England top of the 12-team league after winning two and their only defeat, according to this competition format, coming on penalties. But with the ICC running until early August Arsenal will have to wait and see if anyone betters their record.
Unai Emery will look back with satisfaction at his side’s performances in the ICC this summer
Serious pre-season stuff
This might be pre-season but try telling that to the referee or two teams who took to the FedEx Field pitch. This was as keenly contested a warm-up match as you might wish to see and referee Tim Ford was determined to use the cards he brought with him.
Arsenal’s players showed the competitive instincts can’t be simply switched on and off and were quickly appealing for Real defender Nacho to be sent off when he blocked Alexandre Lacazette’s attempt on the line.
The referee, eventually, duly obliged. That gave Real Madrid and their captain Sergio Ramos, who never needs an invitation to apply pressure to the officials, all the encouragement he needed to do the same when Sokratis was on a booking and then fouled Luka Modric. Ford duly obliged once more.
Sokratis was one of two players to see red during a feisty 90 minutes at FedExField in Maryland
Captaincy pass the parcel?
Could this tour be a sign of things to come when it comes to wearing the Arsenal armband after Laurent Koscielny’s decision to go on strike? Unai Emery has shared the responsibility for leading the Gunners out during their ICC matches here in America, with all three available members of his captaincy group getting a go as skipper.
Granit Xhaka had the honour against Bayern Munich, Nacho Monreal against Fiorentina and Mesut Ozil against his former club here in Maryland. Emery wants to rebuild his group of five captains and hinted Rob Holding could be part of it when he returns to fitness with a final spot up for grabs. But the identity of who will replace Koscielny as the main man has become no clearer in the States.
Mesut Ozil wore the captain’s armband as Emery rotated his senior leadership team again