Theo Walcott grabbed a first half brace as Arsenal hit five goals against Benfica in the Emirates Cup for the second time in three years. An own goal by Lisandro Lopez plus fine strikes by Olivier Giroud and Alex Iwobi wrapped up the scoring in the second half as Arsene Wenger’s squad put themselves in pole position to win the traditional pre-season tournament.
Young Reiss Nelson, playing as a right wing-back, looked eager to impress as the Gunners started the better of the two sides in the pouring rain. The academy graduate was always ready to take on his man, much to the delight of the Emirates crowd.
Arsenal’s interplay in attack was slick but they looked far less comfortable at the back and the visitors were quick to capitalise. David Ospina looked like he might save Franco Cervi’s shot on 12 minutes, however, a big deflection off Per Mertesacker helped the ball into the back of the net. (0-1)
The Gunners responded quickly through two strikes from Theo Walcott. First, the England international volleyed home after persistent work by Sead Kolasinac on 25 minutes. (1-1)
Eight minutes later he tapped into an empty net after good work from Coquelin. The Frenchman, who’d earlier had a heavy fall, was almost immediately subbed off. (2-1)
More sloppy defending by Arsenal ensured Benfica entered the break on level terms. A poor ball out from the back by Ainsley Maitland-Niles left Mertesacker and Rob Holding back tracking and despite a couple of desperate lunges, Eduardo Salvio beat Ospina with the aid of another deflection. (2-2)
Arsenal restored their lead seven minutes after the break when Lisandro Lopez slid the ball into his own net trying to intercept a Walcott cross to Giroud. (3-2)
Walcott really should have had his hat-trick not long after but, having had the ball laid on a plate by Giroud, he thrashed over wildly. The Gunners did extend their lead on 64 minutes as the Frenchman acrobatically tucked home a fine left foot cross by Nelson. (4-2)
At this point, Wenger’s boys were really in the groove. Julio Cesar denied Giroud his second with a fine stop but the reprieve was only temporary as Iwobi soon smashed home a fifth to finish a great move started by Elneny. (5-2)
Record signing Alexandre Lacazette was introduced for the final 15 minutes but with so many changes made by both sides, the game stuttered to a disjointed conclusion.
Earlier in the day Sevilla beat RB Leipzig 1-0 courtesy of a penalty by Ben Yedder. Arsenal play the Spanish side tomorrow afternoon.