Emmanuel Adebayor was back in favour at Arsenal on Sunday as his penalty gave the Gunners a 1-0 win over Real Madrid in the Emirates Cup.
Adebayor’s second-half strike couldn’t have come at a better time after he was booed by Arsenal fans before their defeat against Juventus 24 hours earlier.
The supporters were unhappy with Adebayor’s failure to quash speculation that he wanted to leave until last week, when he was offered a new contract that will double his wages to around 70,000 a week.
But Adebayor got the fans on his side again with an energetic display at the Emirates Stadium to emphasise his importance to Arsene Wenger’s team.
The Togo forward’s goal wasn’t enough for Arsenal to win the four-team pre-season tournament — that honour went to Hamburg — but he departed to warm applause from the 60,000 crowd.
Although Hamburg’s 3-0 win over Juventus in Sunday’s opening match left Arsenal with virtually no chance of winning the competition, Wenger wanted to see his strongest available side tested by the Spanish champions.
He could only be encouraged by their effervescent display.
Of Wenger’s likely starting eleven for the Premier League opener against West Bromwich Albion on August 16, just Cesc Fabregas, short of match fitness after Euro 2008, and Kolo Toure were missing.
They were on top from the beginning as Adebayor and Robin van Persie combined to set up Theo Walcott, whose low shot was smothered by Jerzy Dudek.
Samir Nasri, making his first start at Emirates, was quickly in tune with his new team-mates. The France midfielder started on the left wing but often came infield to link up with van Persie and Adebayor.
Nasri showed enough flashes of inspiration to suggest he will be a more than adequate replacement for Alexander Hleb. He sent van Persie clear down the left with a perfectly-weighted pass, only for Adebayor to head the Dutch forward’s cross wastefully over.
Adebayor nearly made amends moments later with a looping header that Dudek pushed over.
Arsenal were by far the more enterprising force and they finally got a reward in the 49th minute. Van Persie was bundled over by Michel Salgado’s clumsy barge as he challenged for a cross and Adebayor stepped up to side-foot the penalty past Dudek.
FC Twente manager Steve McClaren, watching from the stands ahead of his side’s Champions League qualifier against the Gunners, must have shifted uneasily in his seat as Arsenal out-manouvered Real time and again.
Bernd Schuster’s side offered little in response.
They were lethargic from start to finish and any Chelsea scouts watching Robinho, a reported transfer target for the Blues, would have been unimpressed by the Brazil winger’s limited contribution.
To make matters worse for Real, Wesley Sneijder was stretchered off after a heavy challenge from Abou Diaby.
Adebayor underlined his value to the Gunners with a powerful run that saw him muscle three defenders out of the way before slipping a shot just past the far post.
A lively cameo from 16-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere, who showed his potential by skinning Salgado, was the icing on the cake for Arsenal and Wenger can look forward to the new campaign with renewed optimism.
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