Arsenal and Real Madrid played out a topsy-turvy pre-season clash in Maryland, with four goals, two red cards and a superb 45 minutes from man of the moment Gareth Bale.
The Gunners raced ahead, courtesy of goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but it was the very definition of a game of two halves, as Real battled back courtesy of Bale and Marco Asensio in the second.
It was not your average pre-season friendly, with two red cards, a potentially serious injury to Asensio and plenty of talking points throughout the exciting clash – before a penalty shootout to top it all off.
Reiss Nelson – SCORED
Granit Xhaka – MISSED
Bukayo Saka – SCORED
Nacho Monreal – MISSED
Robbie Burton – MISSED
REAL MADRID’S PENS
Gareth Bale – MISSED
Isco – SCORED
Raphael Varane – SCORED
Vinicius Jr – SCORED
The Spaniards ran out 3-2 winners on spot-kicks, despite Bale missing the opener, with Granit Xhaka, Nacho Monreal and youngster Robbie Burton all missing for Arsenal.
Real Madrid started the brighter of the two teams, with Karim Benzema stinging the palms of Emiliano Martinez inside two minutes, but from there Arsenal took the initiative.
Zinedine Zidane’s side looked shaky at the back from the off, and were this not a pre-season friendly, Nacho would have been lucky to keep his place on the pitch after scything down Sead Kolasinac just outside his own area.
Incredibly, the Spaniard then was sent off with nine minutes on the clock after appearing to deliberately handball on the goal-line in order to stop a certain Lacazette goal.
The Frenchman then stepped up himself to tuck home the penalty, with a little help from both posts on the way in.
It has been a successful, albeit packed, pre-season schedule for Arsenal so far, and Lacazette’s goal sent them on their way to what should have been four wins from four stateside.
It began with a friendly victory over Colorado before their ICC games saw them beat Bayern Munich and Fiorentina going into this Maryland clash with Real Madrid.
With Madrid in the ascendancy, Arsenal could barely get a touch and it all fell apart for the Londoners just minutes later when Asensio did manage to get his goal, firing into the roof of the net after some impressive work from Marcelo.
From 2-0 and cruising to 2-2 and scrapping, Arsenal were in trouble.
There was bad news for Asensio shortly after, though, as his topsy-turvy night went from 100 to 0 all inside 20 minutes.
The influential Real Madrid star had only come on at half-time, but after setting up Bale and netting the equalizer, he appeared to pick up a serious knee injury and was left pounding the turf before being taken off on a stretcher.
His condition may yet influence the futures of both Bale and James Rodriguez, who both seemed destined to leave the Bernabeu this summer.
If Bale is to stay – albeit unlikely at this stage – his performance at the FedExField certainly did him no harm.
He was the star of the second half, scoring and creating down one end and clearing off the line down the other.
Neither side could find themselves a winner, and now it’s all eyes on Bale and Zidane to see who comes out victorious in their off-field battle.