HARRISON, N.J. – In what may well have been Thierry Henry’s final game against his former club, the legendary striker helped make the difference.
Henry recorded a secondary assist as MLS Golden Boot leader Bradley Wright-Phillips found the back of the net to give the New York Red Bulls a 1-0 victory over English Premier League club Arsenal in the 2014 New York Cup on Saturday. The Gunners legend lasted 52 minutes in the friendly at Red Bull Arena, exiting to a roaring ovation from both teams' fans, who combined to make up a crowd of 25,219.
Arsenal, who are in the beginning stages of their preseason, had chances to equalize throughout the match. But they were unable to beat Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, who turned in a Man of the Match-worthy performance.
The decisive play came in the 32nd minute, with Henry hitting a corner kick from the left that center back Ibrahim Sekagya nodded down into Wright-Phillips path for the easy finish.
Arsenal came close to leveling the match on both sides of halftime, but Robles pulled off some spectacular stops to keep New York out in front. The veteran first denied Jack Wislhere in the 38th minute on a close-range shot that came following a good one-touch feed from potential US men’s national team player Gedion Zelalem before making a kick save with his left foot in the 79th minute to stymie Chuba Akpom on a breakaway.
Zelalem, a 17-year-old prospect with immense potential, was included in the Gunners’ lineup and played 45 minutes. He was deployed as a right midfielder and played simply, but did not make much of an impact aside from his feed to Wilshere late in the first half.
It was Henry, however, who had the most eyeballs on him. The 36-year-old striker showed plenty of the skill, strength and smarts that made him Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer a decade ago and a fan favorite amongst the Red Bulls faithful.
Henry and New York will now have to shift their focus back to league play quickly. They travel to take on Real Salt Lake on Wednesday before returning home to host the New England Revolution on Aug. 2.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.