Singapore: Arsenal boss Unai Emery said Emile Smith Rowe had earned his success after the 17-year-old announced himself with a stunning strike in Thursday’s penalties defeat to Atletico Madrid in Singapore.
Two days before his 18th birthday, Smith Rowe curled Arsenal’s equaliser from the edge of the box in a 1-1 draw, before Diego Simeone’s Atletico edged the shoot-out 3-1 in the International Champions Cup.
Smith Rowe was one of three teenagers in the starting line-up as Emery rested his World Cup players — including Mesut Ozil, who has been at the centre of a furore after he quit the German national team claiming racism.
Emery was delighted for the Croydon-born midfielder, who joins a number of promising English players on the fringes of Premier League teams. But he stopped short of saying whether he would now get his chance in a competitive game.
“This goal Smith scored was very good for him, for the team but I think what’s important for us is that everyone, the young players and new players, were working very well today,” said the Spaniard.
Emery was delighted for the Croydon-born Smith Rowe, who joins a number of promising English players on the fringes of top Premier League teams.
“He grew up in the academy and we need to give young players the opportunity to stay with us, work every day and play matches like today,” Emery added.
“Then they are improving every day in the training sessions. I’m very happy with his work on the pitch but it’s not only today, it’s every day. He started today because his performance is good each day in training.”
Under International Champions Cup rules, the game went straight to penalties where substitute Atletico goalkeeper Antonio Adan starred, saving three before coolly scoring the winner himself.
Simeone was also happy with his youthful side, who were deputising for senior players like Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa and Koke.
“We’re really happy with the performance of the youngsters, it was a really good time for them to show what they’ve been training and working for these past years,” the Argentine said.
“They know that Costa and Koke and all the rest of the players will rejoin us for the season in August, so right now what they’re doing is important.”
Both sides fielded unfamiliar line-ups but Arsenal were dominant in the first half before they were hit with a sucker-punch four minutes from the break.
In a rare Atletico foray forward, Angel Correa crossed from the byline to his fellow Argentine Vietto, whose header looped past new Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
The German, starting ahead of Petr Cech in goal, otherwise had little to do as Arsenal, employing Emery’s trademark high press, kept Atletico in their own half.
French forward Alexandre Lacazette was denied from close range on three occasions, including a full-length save by Atletico’s Jan Oblak after good work from Smith Rowe.
The teenager struck the equaliser two minutes into the second half before mass substitutions disrupted the final half-hour.
Arsenal, rebuilding under Emery after Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign, are hoping for silverware this season and a return to the Champions League, while Atletico won the Europa League and finished second in La Liga.