ARSENAL and Barcelona went toe-to-toe in a pre-season contest that was as friendly as a smack in the face.
On the eve of this game, Mikel Arteta declared that his team will be “more physical than you would believe.”
Bukayo Saka thrived in Arsenal’s 5- win over Barcelona, posing constant danger near Andre ter Stegen’s boxCredit: Getty
Saka could have ended the game with two goals but missed a penalty in the first halfCredit: Getty
Leandro Trossard struck twice against Barcelona, showing strong form before the start of the new Premier League seasonCredit: Getty
And they certainly lived up to that boast when they faced up against the Spanish giants in a kicking battle in Los Angeles.
Arteta was perhaps the most relieved guy in the US on a pig of a pitch in Stan Kroenke’s state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium that he opted not to risk £105million Declan Rice after he complained of a stiff calf.
Because the desperate American ref battled to keep control, there were a whopping 24 fouls and four yellow cards in the first half alone.
It’s a surprise how Barcelona center-half Ronald Araujo stayed on the field despite committing three nasty fouls and conceding a penalty area handball in the opening half-hour.
Only when Barcelona manager Xavi opted to change his entire lineup at halftime did some sort of order return.
Nobody suffered more than Bukayo Saka, who was kicked from pillar to post yet again as he tortured Marcos Alonso down the wing.
But the England star kept coming back for more, and with a goal and an assist, he had the last laugh, canceling out goals from Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha.
First, he took advantage of a poor first touch by former Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen to blast a shot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the first minute.
On the stroke of halftime, his lightning-quick pace carried him to the byline, where he lifted the ball into the box for Kai Havertz to score off Martin Odegaard’s header.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing for Arsenal’s Player of the Year, who pulled a penalty wide in the 21st minute then volleyed a great chance over when he really should have.
That miss, though, was immediately forgotten when Arsenal took the lead for the first time in the game with a magnificent 56th-minute step over and shot inside the far post by Leandro Trossard.
The £21million Belgian sealed the victory with another stunning finish to Kierney Tierney’s 78th-minute cross.
When he pounced on Rob Holding’s slip to halve the deficit, Ferran Torres threatened to force a penalty shoot-out, which no one wanted.
But Fabio Vieira put an end to any fears with a 90th-minute screamer into the top corner to round up Arsenal’s trip to the United States.