A late Laurent Koscielny header rescued a 2-2 draw for Arsenal in their opening 2013 Emirates Cup match against Italian outfit Napoli.
The Gunners found themselves 2-0 down at the break, thanks to goals from Lorenzo Insigne and Goran Pandev, while Lukas Podolski had a penalty saved by the familiar face of Pepe Reina.
Arsene Wenger threw on the likes of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the second half in an attempt to salvage something from the match, and his side did just that, starting with 15 minutes to go, when Olivier Giroud’s acrobatic effort deflected off Bacary Sagna to set up a barnstorming finish.
Then Koscielny sent the home crowd home happy, heading home the equaliser after Reina had pulled off a fantastic save from Per Mertesacker.
It could have been a different story altogether had Serge Gnabry taken the first chance of the match inside the opening five minutes.
The ball rolled to the unmarked 18-year-old inside the penalty area, but his left-footed effort flew harmlessly wide of Reina’s far post.
It was to prove a costly miss, because minutes later Arsenal found themselves a goal behind.
Carl Jenkinson’s awful attempted headed clearance fell to Insigne, the forward who impressed with Italy at this summer’s European U21 Championships, who gratefully tucked the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Gnabry had the chance to make amends - albeit with a difficult chance - when Reina inexplicably played a lazy pass straight to the Germany U18 international. However, the Arsenal starlet’s 35-yard chipped landed on the roof of the net - much to the relief of the red-faced Reina.
The Spaniard, starting a season on loan away from Liverpool, was to play a key role in the match, though.
When referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot after Valon Behrami was harshly judged to have brought down Kieran Gibbs, Podolski had the chance to level the scores. But instead justice was probably served, as the forward’s poor spot-kick was saved by Reina.
Friend found himself involved in another controversial decision minutes later when Pandev looked to have been pushed inside the box. But the English match official waved away the Napoli protests for a penalty.
Pandev may have felt aggrieved - but not for long. Because the Macedonian was soon celebrating, after scoring the Serie A side’s second goal of an afternoon that was quickly becoming worrying for Wenger and most of the 59,000 fans inside the stadium.
Marek Hamsik’s pass found Pandev, who took a lovely touch to round Lukasz Fabianski before curling the ball into the far corner of the unguarded netted.
The half-time whistle was met by a few boos from the unimpressed home fans, who had seen nothing from their side in the first half to even remotely suggest they can challenge for the Premier League title this season.
And their afternoons were made worse at the start of the second half, when Argentina international Gonzalo Higuain - who almost ended up at the Emirates Stadium this summer - entered the fray for Napoli.
But in Giroud, Arsenal have a striker eager to impress after a mixed first season in English football.
The France international played a major part in pulling a goal back for the Gunners with a superbly executed overhead kick, which took a deflection off Sagna before rolling over the line.
Suddenly the home team sensed blood, and with five minutes left on the clock, the impressive Koscielny found himself in the right place at the right time to score the equalising goal.
Mikel Arteta’s free-kick met the head of Mertesacker, who forced a tremendous save from Reina, but the Spaniard was powerless to prevent Koscielny from levelling the scores.
The result leaves Arsenal with a chance of winning another Emirates Cup. Tomorrow they face Galatasaray, who beat Porto 1-0 earlier in the afternoon.
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