Emile Smith Rowe was on target on Tuesday evening as we were beaten by Hibernian at Easter Road in our first game of pre-season.
With much of the focus on fitness and combination play, we started brightly enough and had a golden chance when Eddie Nketiah raced clean through on goal – only for the striker to shoot wide.
Reiss Nelson soon tested former Gunner Matt Macey with a firm strike as we forced the home side back, and from the resulting corner Nketiah sent a glancing header wide.
But out of nowhere, we gifted the Scottish side the lead when Arthur Okonkwo failed to deal with a tricky backpass from Cedric, and Martin Boyle had the simple task of collecting the loose ball and rolling it in from close range.
We fashioned a decent chance for an equaliser when a deep ball to the back post was headed back across goal by Sead Kolasinac, but Nelson’s goalbound shot hit Nketiah and deflected away.
Okonkwo soon made a sharp save to push away Stephen Bradley’s shot, before the Hibs striker hit the post moments later before the half-time break.
Mikel Arteta made seven changes at the interval, and one of them – Nicolas Pepe – came close to an immediate impact as his goalbound free kick from the edge of the area was pushed over.
Pepe soon saw a shot deflected just wide, while Folarin Balogun had an effort saved as we stepped things up – before Thomas Partey struck the post with a superb long-range free kick.
But, just like the first half, we were hit by a suckerpunch when a deep corner swung in from the right was headed back across goal by Paul Hanlon, and Daniel Mackay headed in from close range to double the hosts’ lead.
We looked to have a way back into the game when Pepe was taken down in the area and a penalty was awarded, but the Ivorian’s spot kick was saved.
We got back into the match with seven minutes remaining when, at the end of an intricate passing move, Hector Bellerin picked out Smith Rowe at the back post and he fired in.
But there was to be no late equaliser but Arteta will have seen plenty to encourage him despite the result.
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