The New York Red Bulls came from behind to draw 1-1 with Arsenal courtesy of a late own goal by Gunners defender Kyle Bartley. That result, combined with Paris Saint-Germain's victory earlier in the day against Boca Juniors, meant that the Red Bulls won the Emirates Cup on their first entry into the competition.
With two ninety-minute games in the space of two days and possibly some concerns about fitness, Hans Backe made two changes to the side that won 1-0 against PSG on Saturday. Thierry Henry and Rafael Márquez returned to the lineup in place of Juan Agudelo and Joel Lindpere. Henry was set out as New York's lone striker, with Márquez sitting deep in the midfield.
Arsenal definitely started the brighter of the two sides, and even though the Red Bulls had five men in midfield they seemed to be swamped by the superior passing and pressing of their hosts. With just one man up front and no central attacking midfielder, New York were unable to build up attacks and Henry rarely saw the ball in the first half.
The Gunners were in control throughout the match, but found it difficult to create and finish chances thanks to some good defending from Tim Ream, Márquez, and Carlos Mendes, as well as several excellent saves by Frank Rost. Arsenal had the lion's share of the ball and kept New York pinned back, keeping all four of them, as well as the Red Bulls midfielders and fullbacks, quite busy.
Rost had held Arsenal at bay for more than forty minutes before the hosts finally broke the deadlock. A Red Bulls handball resulted in a free kick to Arsenal about forty yards from goal, which was taken by Tomas Rosicky. The Czech midfielder swung the ball in from wide on the left, Robin van Persie ran in ahead of the Red Bulls defenders and Rost, and was able to slide the ball into the back of the net for Arsenal's opener.
The Gunners nearly doubled their advantage just a minute later, as Gervinho was clean through and looked sure to score, but Rost palmed his shot away. The last few minutes of the first half wound down fairly quietly, and Arsenal went into the halftime break well on top, and ought to have been more than just a single goal ahead.
The second half started much like the first, only with a bit more intensity from Arsenal, who continued to press for a second goal. The formula was the same: Arsenal dominated possession, the Red Bulls barely saw the ball, but New York's defense managed to keep the Gunners at bay.
The game turned slightly with the introduction of Juan Agudelo. The young American striker injected a bit more attacking intent into the Red Bulls, who started to create a few chances on the break, most falling to Thierry Henry. The former Arsenal captain failed to find the back of the net, but did show that New York were far from dead and buried yet.
The Gunners looked to feel that the game was won, and although they continued to come forward, they were allowing their visitors a few more opportunities at the other end. They would come to regret that lack of intensity with just six minutes remaining, as a lovely pass from Henry just inside the box found Roy Miller, who flashed the ball across the face of goal. Young Arsenal defender Kyle Bartley tried to clear the ball, but smashed it into the back of the net instead to make it 1-1. Yet again, Arsenal had thrown away a lead in the second half, and yet again, the Red Bulls had come from behind, improbably, to snatch a draw.
While Arsenal tried to muster up a bit of attacking threat after the equalizer, the energy seemed to have gone out of both their play and their fans. New York hung on for the 1-1 draw, and the point was enough to give them the Emirates Cup. Henry took the trophy and celebrated with his teammates before going on a lap of honor around his old ground. That it was a former Gunners great who claimed overall victory might have given the Arsenal fans remaining in the stadium a very small bit of relief.
For the Red Bulls players (and us writers), there is certainly a bit of relief ahead. For the first time in a month and a half, none of the squad have to play in midweek. Up next is a trip to visit one of the best teams in MLS, as New York visits Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium next Saturday night.