MLS All-Stars 1, Arsenal 2 | 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game Match Recap
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Petr Cech might need a new phone number.
Cech, the Arsenal goalkeeper, commented Wednesday that he hoped Montreal Impact striker Didier Drogba wouldn’t score in the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game “because for a whole year, he will text me with a picture of the goal, probably.”
Cech almost got away clean, but Drogba struck during first-half stoppage time for the MLS All-Stars' only goal in a 2-1 loss to the Gunners at Avaya Stadium on Thursday evening in front of a sellout crowd of 18,000.
Chuba Akpom tapped home the game-winning goal in the 87th minute for Arsenal, set up by a driving run from Christopher Willock and a neatly turned low cross from the overlapping Nacho Monreal.
That, combined with Joel Campbell’s 11th-minute penalty kick, was enough to snap the MLS All-Stars' two-game winning streak against European All-Star competition.
The best storyline of the day was the showdown of Drogba and Cech, who spent a decade together at Chelsea winning all the trophies that Europe has to offer.
The sequence was set in motion by a turnover from 18-year-old Arsenal center back Krystian Bielik. That miscue gave Sacha Kljestan free reign in the middle of Arsenal’s third. The ball quickly pinged from Giovani dos Santos to Drogba.
Cech blocked Drogba’s first attempt, and an initial rebound try was snuffed out by young center back Rob Holding, but the ball once again fell to Drogba, who switched sides and toe poked it into the corner with his right foot for his 16th career goal against Arsenal in all competitions.
It was exactly the kind of drama that MLS was undoubtedly hoping for when it booked the Premier League giants for their mid-summer showcase.
The game began in wide-open fashion, players zooming up and down the Avaya Stadium pitch. MLS unspooled long balls for NYCFC star David Villa to collect on the left wing, where he proved a menacing presence for Arsenal right back Mathieu Debuchy on a couple of occasions.
Cech was able to snuff out a one-on-one opportunity from dos Santos in the eighth minute, set up by an Andrea Pirlo moon shot from deep midfield.
But the visitors were on the front foot for much of the first half, and were building towards a goal in the 10th minute when Gunners striker Joel Campbell touched a ball over onrushing MLS goalkeeper Andre Blake, then went down in a tangle of legs with defender Laurent Ciman to draw the penalty.
Campbell’s unconventional run-up belied a powerful spot kick that beat Blake cleanly to the goalkeeper’s left.
The hosts had their chances to go ahead in the second half, when Arsenal began feeding more and more youngsters onto the pitch.
Cech made a leaping stop on Sebastian Giovinco in the 48th minute. And hometown hero Chris Wondolowski, who came on late to the day’s loudest ovation, blazed his 14-yard attempt off an 82nd-minute Cyle Larin pullback far too high.
Arsenal pushed forward in the final five minutes to avoid penalty kicks. Holding’s header from an 85th-minute corner kick flashed over the crossbar. But there was nothing to be down two minutes after that when Willock and Monreal laid bare the MLS defense.