LONDON: Arsenal beat Liverpool 5-4 on penalties on Saturday to lift the FA Community Shield, the curtain-raiser for the English domestic season, after the two sides played out a 1-1 draw on a chilly afternoon at Wembley.
Gunners captain and match goal-scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired in the final penalty of the afternoon to complete the north London side’s second win over the league champions in the space of six weeks following a shortened summer break.
“We are improving. There is still work to do but I’m really happy and it’s an exciting time to be an Arsenal player,” Aubameyang told BT Sport after the match. It was the Gunners’ second trophy within a month following the side’s FA Cup final win over Chelsea on Aug. 1.
The game, played each summer between the league and FA Cup winner of the season just finished, was a very even and at times rather slow affair.
Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk had an early strike ruled out offside before Arsenal‘s opener, a well-worked move to break out of the champions’ high press.
Bukayo Saka took the ball up the field on the right, crossed all the way over to Aubameyang on the far left, and the Gabon striker skipped forward and curled an inch-perfect shot beyond the reach of Liverpool keeper Alisson into the opposite corner.
The Liverpool attack appeared disjointed by contrast. While they pushed Arsenal right back up the field for long stretches, they were unable to put together a single shot on goal in the first half.
Liverpool’s Japanese substitute Takumi Minamino eventually levelled the tie in the 73rd minute with a shot from close range, picking up his first goal in 15 appearances since arriving on Merseyside in January from Red Bull Salzburg.
“If we’d scored earlier that would have helped … We had our big moments, which we didn’t finish off, so that’s the result,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp told reporters.
Mohamed Salah, Fabinho, Minamino and substitute Curtis Jones all scored for Liverpool in the shootout, but fellow late substitute Rhian Brewster blasted his shot – his first touch of the ball – onto the bar.
Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Cedric Soares and David Luiz all scored for the Gunners before Aubameyang stroked his shot past Alisson to seal the victory for the Londoners.
When asked about whether he will renew his contract with Arsenal which currently expires next summer, Aubameyang – their leading scorer for the last two seasons – remained enigmatic: “We’re going to see in these days. Today we take the trophy, that’s it.”
Gunners manager Mikel Arteta sounded more positive about both Aubameyang’s contract and the team as a whole, saying: “I try to do my job which is convince him he’s at the right place. I’m very positive he is going to sign.”
“It’s not a one-off when we beat the teams we have in the last two months consistently,” he said, though he added: “We have aspects in our game we have to improve.”