Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls overcame Arsenal 1-0 in what could be his last appearance against his former club.
The 36-year-old played the first 53 minutes, leaving the field to rapturous applause, and delivered the centre from which Bradley Wright-Phillips scored.
This was Major League Soccer’s first victory against English opponents this summer, despite several impressive showings.
Big apple showdown
While a number of absentees required many of the FA Cup holders' stars to play out of their favoured positions, the Red Bulls were able to line up with their 21-goal front-line of Henry and Wright-Phillips – the deadliest strike partnership in MLS.
In the fifth minute, the Frenchman almost made a dream start. Beating the offside trap, he tried to bend an attempt around Wojciech Szczesny in trademark style, only for the Polish stopper to stretch out a strong left paw.
Then, a gorgeous Henry pass allowed Wright-Phillips in, and though the 29-year-old’s shot evaded the goalkeeper, it missed the far post by a fraction.
Depleted Arsenal struggle
The Gunners had huge support in Red Bull Arena, but gave them little to shout about in the opening stages, until finally breaching the home defence as Aaron Ramsey worked space in the area and fired wide with 18 minutes gone.
Though Arsenal’s emergence as an attacking threat caused the game to become stretched, New York remained on top, and soon led. Henry’s deep corner was headed down, and Wright-Phillips crept in ahead of Mikel Arteta and Szczesny to prod across the line.
Zelalem among youngsters given chance to shine
Suddenly aware of their inferiority to this point, the visitors pushed on. Jack Wilshere scored one of the finest goals in the Premier League last season – converting after a fine, flowing team move against Norwich City – and he almost recreated it here. Running through after Gedion Zelalem’s sumptuous flick, the England man provided a solid finish, but Luis Robles’ beat the effort away superbly.
A clutch of half-time substitutions included the introduction of Chuba Akpom, and he instantly assisted Santi Cazorla, whose low drive was blocked.
The Red Bulls struggled following Henry’s departure, but the London outfit looked equally blunt, and neither side created another chance until Akpom raced away from the defence and scuffed his finish in the 79th minute.
Awoken, the New Jerseyans advanced, with Peguy Luyindula diverting a left-wing cross off target.
Substitute Kristoffer Olsson curled a stoppage-time free-kick over the bar, and the 2013 Supporters’ Shield winners were able to hold on for a surprisingly comfortable victory.