Arsenal fans will have to wait a little longer to see Petr Cech debut for his new club after the goalkeeping superstar was left out of Wednesday’s Barclays Asia Trophy opener against a Singapore Select XI.
Cech had been the main event throughout the build-up to the tournament at the Singapore National Stadium, ever since his high-profile switch from London rivals Chelsea.
But Arsene Wenger refused to give the pro-Arsenal crowd what it wanted, instead starting young Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez, with Wojciech Szczesny his deputy.
Cech is a chance to taste his first piece of action in Saturday’s final – although Wenger was non-committal on that after the match – after the Gunners cruised to a 4-0 victory over a Singapore Select XI.
In the absence of some of his more illustrious teammates, teenage striker Chuba Akpom stole the show, recording a hat-trick for the Gunners.
Arsenal will take on Everton in the final after the Toffees earlier scraped past Stoke City 5-4 on penalties, after that match finished 0-0 at the end of regulation.
Wenger was satisfied with the performance of his team and was also complimentary about their opponents.
“It was a good result, we played dynamic and mobile football,” the Frenchman said. “We had a very good collective attitude, we had a good focus and we dug deep to get a good result.
“Singapore were electric in the first half, I don’t know what they had for lunch, they played at an absolutely high pace.
“Technically they very good. They didn’t create too much, but it was hard to take ball off them.”
As is customary in the pre-season, Wenger gave a number of his fringe players a chance to shine, leaving the likes of Hector Bellerin and Szczesny on the bench.
Cech, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud were among those kept in cotton wool throughout, with Akpom and Alex Iwobi among the fringe players given a starting role.
Akpom took advantage of his call-up, opening the scoring in the 30th minute. Following a neat build-up involving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi, Jack Wilshere had his shot blocked by Izwan Mahbud.
The rebound fell to Akpom and the English teenager made no mistake.
The Gunners had a number of other chances to add to the first-half scoreline, but Izwan regularly kept out the danger in another assured display from the rising Singaporean.
The crowd roared with approval every time the Singapore line-up found possession anywhere near their attacking third, with foreign imports Sirina Camara and Nicolas Velez dangerous at times.
Safuwan Baharudin also unleashed a fierce first-half drive that looked on target before it was blocked unknowingly by Gabriel.
Wilshere grabbed a second-half goal, converting a penalty after Mathieu Debuchy was brought down by Camara, with replays suggesting it was a fortunate call for the Gunners.
Akpom then notched two more strikes in the second half, another penalty and then a powerful header after being set up by Bellerin.
In the earlier match, Everton and Stoke City were locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, leading to a penalty shootout to determine the competition’s other finalist.
It was the Toffees holding their nerve, slotting all five spot kicks to prevail 5-4.
Stoke will now take on the Singapore selection in the third-place playoff on Saturday before Arsenal and Everton battle it out for the trophy.
"We can learn – the way they pass the ball, one-on-one they can take us on," Singapore selection coach V Sundramoorthy said after the game. "They do not rush into passes and don’t lose the ball unnecessarily.
"The two penalties were a bit soft, but we have to see the video.”
Photo credit: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwocomments