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  • Benfica 2-1 Arsenal: Van Persie great-finish, Aimar, Nolito scored

    An Arsenal side deprived of captain Cesc Fabregas and showing characteristic fragility in defence were defeated 2-1 in the Eusebio Cup by Benfica to conclude their pre-season preparations.

    Robin van Persie handed Arsenal the lead in the first half at Estadio da Luz before suffering an injury scare, but as Arsene Wenger introduced a number of inexperienced players in the second half, Benfica's superior class began to show through as they took full control.

    Pablo Aimar and Nolito both scored within the space of ten minutes as the home side exploited some slack defending, leaving Arsenal fans to ponder an unimpressive performance just a week after they booed the team off at the Emirates Cup.

    When the team-sheets were announced the most significant aspect was the names absent, with Fabregas remaining at home despite Wenger admitting his captain is no longer injured. With a key Champions League fixture against Udinese approaching, Arsenal now find themselves in an invidious position regarding the Barcelona target.

    Samir Nasri, apparently nursing a complaint but with his future still up in the air, was also missing, so Arsenal fans were treated to another sighting of Gervinho, who started on the right but popped up all over, rasping a shot against the side netting after 13 minutes when twisting expertly away from Luisao.

    By that point, Wojciech Szczesny had almost been caught out by a dive from Franco Jara that earned the forward a booking as he deliberately fell to ground when the Pole rushed off his line and pulled out of a challenge.

    Benfica, playing in honour of their greatest ever player, threatened intermittently, with midfielder Bruno Cesar a menace, but it was Arsenal who enjoyed the better of the chances in the first half and Van Persie went close on 31 minutes when he raced onto a glorious pass from Alex Song and chipped the ball over Eduardo, only to see the ball sneak past the far post.

    But the Dutchman would not be denied three minutes later. He dropped deep to become involved in the build-up and then ghosted into the box to get on the end of a cut-back from the impressive Kieran Gibbs before slotting home from close range.

    Then came a sight Arsenal fans dread. After a poor challenge from Ezequiel Garay that saw the defender booked for coming in from behind and treading on the Dutchman, Van Persie went down in pain and went off for treatment on his knee. Thankfully, with that Udinese tie approaching and key players sidelined for a variety of reasons, he was okay to continue.

    Van Persie was one of a slew of players to make way at half-time as both sides made numerous substitutions. The changes played into Benfica's hands.

    The Portuguese side were a completely different proposition after the break and found themselves level on 50 minutes. Aimar, on as a sub, allowed a cut-back to run past him before receiving the ball back, muscling Thomas Vermaelen off the ball and producing a tidy finish to beat Lukasz Fabianski.

    Luisao then rattled the woodwork when springing the offside trap and smacking a volley against the bar, before Nolito made it 2-1 on the hour as he all too easily e from Sebastien Squillaci on the edge of the box and fired a wonderful finish into the bottom corner.

    Fabianski twice had to make saves from Nicolas Gaitan to prevent further damage from being inflicted as Arsenal faded badly at Estadio da Luz.

    They now prepare for their opening game of the season at Newcastle next weekend.
    Tom Adams - follow me on Twitter @tomEurosport / Eurosport

    Team Line-up:

    Benfica: Eduardo, Emerson, Luisao, Garay, Ruben Amorim, Javi Garcia, Bruno Cesar, Matic, Perez, Cardozo, Jara.
    Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Djourou, Rosicky, Song, Van Persie, Ramsey, Gervinho, Arshavin. Subs: Fabianski, Squillaci, Jenkinson, Chamakh, Traore, Frimpong, Miyaichi, Lansbury, Miquel.


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