By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
It was a strange sort of mixed bag for the Premier League teams involved in pre-season friendlies. There were moderately satisfying victories, not entirely discouraging defeats and the sense that the real stuff isn’t too far away.
The feeling of ambivalence was possibly best summed up in Los Angeles where Tottenham took on LA Galaxy is a glitzy friendly. It finished 1-1 with a goal from Gareth Bale, but no sooner had net rippled than questions were being asked about the young Welshman’s absence from Team GB. He was ruled out of an appearing at the Olympics due to injury, but recovered enough for the less than important showdown in California. It angered many, but the good news is Bale should be fit and healthy for Great Britain’s 2016 campaign.
Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka were too busy rolling around on their money to bother appearing for Shanghai Shenhua when Manchester United rolled into town. It’s probably a good thing because Fergie didn’t appear to be taking the game too seriously, starting Michael Carrick at the heart of the United defence. Elsewhere it was the usual mix of new signings, youngsters and squad players. Shinji Kagawa scored the only goal in the 1-0 win, which only really served to heighten expectations he probably won’t live up to.
Arsenal were also in – what we’ll lazily label – ‘the region’. They took on a Malaysian XI on Tuesday and showed commendable fighting spirit. It’s just a shame the effort was wasted on a friendly. Arsene Wenger started with a lot of familiar names, but it was the little known youngsters emerging from the Gunners’ nursery that swung the tie around. After going behind to a cracking goal that Vito Mannone made look a little more unstoppable than it was, Arsenal teenyboppers, Thomas Eisfield and Chuks Aneke scored late goals to earn the win.
On the other side of the world, Liverpool took on Roma at the home of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park. The fact that Liverpool played a number of youngsters and fringe players they’re hoping to sell on will cushion the blow of the 2-1 defeat. They played some decent football and created a few good chances, but goals from Michael Bradley and Alessandro Florenzi were enough to render Charlie Adam’s late contribution even more meaningless than a normal friendly goal.
Chelsea also tasted defeat stateside, going down 3-2 to the MLS All Stars – a rather grandiose title for a group of players who would probably be playing in the Championship/League 1 if they were in the UK. John Terry, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard all started in what was a reasonably strong Chelsea line-up, but things went a bit awry when the serial substitutions came. The Pensioners went 2-1 up in the 57th minute thanks to a neat Frank Lampard goal, but goals from Chris Pontius (not the one from Jackass) and Eddie Johnson (the one who used to play for Fulham) saw the All Stars prevail.
On Tuesday, Aston Villa drew with Portland and then won on a pointless penalty shoot-out the Americans seem to require because they see draws as being some sort of socialist conspiracy. Neil Lennon was too busy scouting Celtic’s Champions League opposition to see their defeat to Norwich in Glasgow and that’s probably a good thing. A strong-ish Bhoys side went down 1-0 to a Grant Holt goal. Reading lost 2-0 to Sheffield Wednesday on the same evening, but the first appearance of new signing Pavel Pogrebnyak in a Royals’ short was exciting enough for fans to ignore the otherwise disappointing result. Stoke went down 2-1 to MLS side, Columbus Crew. Swansea also suffered a 2-1 reverse to US opposition, this time the Swans losing to Colorado Rapids. The good news is loan signing, Jonathon de Guzman scored, but that’s about the good news ended. Wigan beat Micheldorf 3-1, with Victor Moses impressing which is good timing considering Chelsea’s on-going interest.
On Wednesday night, West Ham racked up another win in their extensive pre-season programme. They beat Erfurt 3-0, which Stephen Henderson impressing in goal and Ricardo Vaz Te grabbing a couple of goals. West Brom also had a resounding 3-0 win as they overcame Copenhagen in Denmark, with Steven Reid, Shane Long and Gabriel Tamas getting the goals.