Dubai: Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners against Italian champions AC Milan to win the Dubai Super Cup at the Al Maktoum Stadium and it was another impressive display from Mikel Arteta’s side.
The Gunners’ squad was bolstered by a number of stars returning from the World Cup, including Ben White and Thomas Partey who both started at right back and centre midfield respectively. They had brushed aside Lyon 3-0 in their first match and collected a bonus point too by winning the penalty shootout – which follows the Dubai Super Cup matches regardless of the result – but they made a nervous start against Milan who dominated the early exchanges.
The last meeting between these two sides came back in March 2018, when Arsenal secured a 3-1 victory in the second leg of their Europa League last-16 tie at Emirates Stadium.
They knew a victory over the Rossoneri would crown them champions of the tournament, in what would be a welcome boost ahead of the resumption of the domestic campaign. However, overcoming the Serie A titleholders proved no easy feat.
Centre back Fikayo Tomori was not allowing Eddie Nketiah a look in as the Italians showed composure on the ball and almost went ahead when striker Divock Origi curled a lovely effort which clipped the top of the cross bar. It was an early warning sign for the Gunners who began to fall deeper and deeper into their own half as they tried to weather the early storm.
Milan forced four corners in quick succession as they sensed first blood but the closest they came was a Yacine Adli scuffed effort at goal which was easily dealt with. Coach Stefano Pioli was encouraged with what he was seeing but then Milan captain Sandro Tonali, who had been bossing the midfield, gave away a free kick on the edge of the box and on 20 minutes against the run of play Arsenal took the lead thanks to a stunning effort from skipper Martin Odegaard.
Milan were the better side for the last 10 minutes but it was Arsenal who extended their lead. Fabio Vieira danced through the back before finding Reiss Nelson in space and the left winger’s shot took a big deflection and spun over keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu and in with minutes to go before half time.
Arteta brought on Mohamed ElNeny for Partey in the second half and they continued to dominate the game with Milan struggling to get hold of the ball. Vieira carved out a chance for himself but it was blocked by Matteo Gabbia but then the Italians pulled themselves back in the match with 15 minutes remaining when Tonali’s free kick was glanced brilliantly home by Tomori.
Milan pressed for the equaliser with Brahim Diaz and Ismael Bennacer seeing plenty of the ball but Arsenal hung on to make it two wins from two in the tournament and also won the penalty shootout 4-3 to secure the Dubai Super Cup crown.
It has been almost a month since Arsenal beat Wolves in their final Premier League match before club football went on a break for the World Cup, and they have looked strong in both their matches in Dubai. They will fly back to London for a friendly at the Emirates against Juventus, before the focus shifts to the return to Premier League action on Boxing Day against West Ham.
AC Milan will be back at the Al Maktoum stadium on Friday evening as they take on Liverpool in their second and final match of the Dubai Super Cup before facing PSV in a friendly and then Salernitana in the Serie A clash on January 4th.