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July 28, 2016
Young Gunners defeat MLS All-Stars, 2-1

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Arsenal FC went with a no-star lineup in the second half, and the Gunners were good enough to edge the MLS All-Stars, 2-1, at Avaya Stadium Thursday night.

Chuba Akpom scored the deciding goal in the 87th minute, breaking a three-game winning streak for the MLS in the All-Star contest. Akpom converted shortly after the MLS threatened through a Clint Dempsey-Cyle Larin-Chris Wondolowski three forward attack.

Arsenal, missing most of its regular starters, went with a combination of veterans, bench players and U23 team members, including 19-year-old Gedion Zelalem. MLS coach Dominic Kinnear began substituting in the first half.

Both teams put on attacking displays, Arsenal controlling possession for most of the opening half. Joel Campbell provided the Gunners with the lead on a 11th-minute penalty kick and Montreal’s Didier Drogba tied the score in first-half injury time.

An early Kaká giveaway set up Theo Walcott, the MLS defense recovering as Walcott fired wide right from the edge of the penalty area. In the sixth minute, Campbell was taken down, Walcott’s low free kick grabbed by Andre Blake.

The MLS retaliated as Andrea Pirlo sent a long ball to the back post to Giovani Dos Santos, who chested down, his shot stopped by Petr Cech.

Arsenal took the lead as Campbell left-footed a penalty into the right side of the net, past a diving Blake. Campbell earned the penalty, beating Blake to a long ball, then going in on a recovering Laurent Ciman, Chris Penso awarding the PK as both players went down in the goal area.

In the 16th minute, Arsenal squandered an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain breakaway, Walcott’s low shot easily grabbed by Blake as two Gunners awaited a potential return pass. Two minutes later, Oxlade-Chamberlain fired high and wide from long range.

The MLS produced threats through Pirlo’s playmaking and David Villa’s runs on the left.

But Arsenal was more effective than the MLS offensively.

Midway through the half, Mohamed Elneny lined up a straight away 25-yarder, Blake tipping over the bar. Seconds later, Kellyn Acosta deflected a Campbell one-timer after Walcott broke ahead of the defense to the end line. Arsenal continued to attack, Oxlade-Chamberlain sending a low shot from the edge of the penalty area, Jelle Van Damme clearing.

Pirlo and Villa went to the bench, replaced by Sacha Kljestan and Ignacio Piatti as the teams took a 32nd-minute water break.

Drogba earned a free kick just outside the penalty area after a clash with 18-year-old defender Krystian Bielik and Coquelin, who went down holding his left knee, receiving treatment. Drogba’s 43rd-minute free kick was headed out for a corner.

With seconds left in the opening half, after Penso awarded two minutes of injury time, Drogba tied the score, getting three chances before finishing left-footed following a Bielik giveaway. Cech stopped Drogba’s point-blank attempt, Rob Holding blocked the second, before Drogba calmly finished into the right side of the net.

Sebastian Giovinco, among eight MLS substitutes who entered after halftime, threatened early in the second half, avoiding two defenders and firing from just inside the penalty area, Cech diving left to save.

After halftime, Arsenal added Calum Chambers in place of Bielik and Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal entered at outside backs. As the teams took a water break, Arsene Wenger sent in five substitutes, including Zelalem, a U.S. U23 national team midfielder.

The Gunner youngsters soon started finding a rhythm. Granit Xhaka’s 73rd-minute left-foot free kick was grabbed by David Bingham, Arsenal then earning a corner off a Bingham turnover.

Seconds after entering the match Dempsey and Wondolowski threatened. Following a Brandon Vincent throw-in, Dempsey advanced on the left side of the penalty area, drawing out Emiliano Martinez, but his lead pass went too far ahead of Wondolowski, running free in the goal area.

Arsenal threatened as Zelalem stripped Wil Trapp, the MLS then clearing crosses by Zelalem and Bellerin.

Dempsey started a counter, finding Larin, who broke into the penalty area, then laid off for Wondolowski, whose one-timer went high.

In the 86th minute, Arsenal took the ball off Vincent, Alex Iwobi advancing near the penalty area, his shot deflected for a corner, Holding then heading high.

Seconds later, Chambers headed away an Andrew Farrell cross for a corner. Martinez grabbed the corner kick and started the Arsenal attack with a long ball that was headed out by Trapp. The Gunners set up off a throw-in, playing through Xhaka, who played the ball into the penalty area, Monreal advancing on the left and centering for Akpom to finish into an open net.

The Gunners, who will meet CD Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., Sunday, finished the game with only one player (Monreal, 30) over the age of 23.

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