Drogba strikes for Galatasaray to win Emirates Cup
LONDON (AP) — Didier Drogba came back to haunt Arsenal in their own stadium on Sunday, scoring two late goals in a 2-1 victory that won Galatasaray the Emirates Cup.
One of Arsenal’s bogeymen during his years at Chelsea, Drogba showed he hadn’t lost the knack of scoring against the north London team. He came off the bench in the second half and turned a losing match around.
He sealed victory in the 88th minute when he collected a pass into the box from Wesley Sneijder, dribbled past Per Mertesacker and struck the ball home. He brought Galatasaray level only nine minutes earlier when he converted a penalty after being pushed down by Bacary Sagna.
Arsenal dominated play in the first half and scored in the 39th minute when Theo Walcott’s cross cut through the defense and surprised goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. But they could not convert several chances, including a close-range shot that Walcott tapped wide and a disallowed goal by Sanogo, who was caught offside.
Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim’s decision to field Drogba and Sneijder in the second half helped his team push forward with more confidence and hold possession for longer.
Arsenal’s supporters in the stadium, where 59,608 tickets had been sold, showered Drogba with boos every time he touched the ball. The Ivorian international, however, seemed to feed off the energy, as though rejuvenated by memories of his Premier League glory days.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he was satisfied with his players’ performance in the first half and suggested their decline toward the end of the match was due more to their physical conditions rather than a mental lapse.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen two such different halves. We could not keep it going and we were punished for it,” he said.
Wenger praised Drogba’s “physical and intelligent” play but argued he had fallen too easily to win the penalty.
“The penalty was very, very, very, very soft,” he said. “It was a classic Drogba.”
Earlier in the day, FC Porto beat Napoli 3-1, taking advantage of defensive blunders to make up for a first-half deficit.
The Portuguese team equalized with a strike by forward Nabil Ghilas in the 50th minute and doubled their score thanks to an own goal by Napoli defender Federico Fernandez 18 minutes later. Lica came off the bench to seal the result for Porto in the 78th, picking up a loose pass in front of goal by Andrea Dossena.
Napoli took the lead in the first half thanks to a penalty converted by forward Goran Pandev, who was brought down in the box by Fernando.
But as the match wore on and Porto picked up the pace, the Italian side struggled to keep up. They were caught off guard by counterattacks, with Porto playmaker Juan Quintero creating several chances for his forwards.
Like Wenger, Napoli’s coach, the newly signed Rafael Benitez, blamed his side’s sluggishness on preseason training sessions that are still weighing on the players.
“Physically, we’re not at the right level yet,” he said. “The team has trouble when we lack freshness. We suffer counterattacks.”
Galatasaray finished the competition with nine points, ahead of Porto with six and Arsenal and Napoli with four.