Rice makes debut, Havertz scores as Rooney labels Arsenal ‘one of the best sides in Europe’

News Desk
Declan Rice hugs Gabriel Martinelli during a match.
Arsenal new boy Declan Rice hugs Gabriel Martinelli during a match.

Declan Rice made his Arsenal debut on Wednesday evening as his new side opened their US tour by battering Wayne Rooney’s MLS All-Stars.

The 24-year-old midfielder completed his £105million switch from West Ham on Saturday and just four days later made his bow 3,660 miles away from the Emirates Stadium.

Rice was introduced as a second half substitute in Washington DC as Arsenal swept aside the Rooney-managed MLS All-Stars 5-0 in sweltering conditions.

Gabriel Jesus’ audacious clipped effort gave the Gunners an early lead that Leandro Trossard added to with a lasered effort from the edge of the box.

Jorginho’s penalty, a fine Gabriel Martinelli finish and Kai Havertz’s first goal in an Arsenal shirt completed the win on a night when new boys Jurrien Timber and Rice made their first appearance for the club.

There was a hearty Arsenal contingent at Audi Field, where director Josh Kroenke received a warm cheer before Rooney, the Manchester United and England great, was jeered.

The Gunners supporters in attendance only had to wait five minutes before celebrating a moment of magic.

The All-Stars appeared to have stopped a dangerous attack, only for Jesus to meet a loose ball with an audacious clipped effort from the edge of the box that curled in off the far post.

Rooney’s side responded with determination but were unable to unlock the visitors, who extended their lead midway through the first half.

Bukayo Saka was sent behind down the right and passed across to Trossard, who cut away from his man and scored a thumping right-footed drive from 22 yards.

Arsenal’s opening goalscorers nearly combined for a third soon after but Jesus could only head Trossard’s deep cross into the side netting.

Impressive Trossard sent a free-kick just wide before an opening period that somehow featured five bookings was called to an end.

Within seconds of the restart a Tim Parker handball gave Arsenal the chance to score a third.

Jorginho scored the resulting spot-kick and the Gunners will be hoping Trossard avoided any major issue after limping off in the 55th minute.

Referee Ted Unkel did not award another Arsenal penalty despite the VAR advising him to review a decision, instead indicating for the visitors to make their planned substitutions.

Timber came on for his first appearance and Rice received the biggest cheer.

Arsenal continued to control proceedings and Martinelli coolly struck home in the 84th minute after being played in by an excellent Martin Odegaard pass.

Havertz completed the one-sided victory when controlling and finishing from close range in the 89th minute.

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Meanwhile, Rooney called the Gunners’ one of Europe’s best sides and aired some frustrations after his MLS All-Star team was comprehensively beaten.

“Obviously the result is what it is and Arsenal showed the quality they have,” the MLS All-Star boss said.

“I thought the All-Star lads looked a little nervous and hesitant, especially the first half when we got into some good areas, to get their shots off.

“I think you see a difference, of course you do. Arsenal are one of the best teams in Europe.

“I thought it was a bit stop-stop. The referee made the game a little bit about himself once again, so I think that’s something that needs improving in the MLS.

“I’ve said that all season so it’s a good opportunity for me to bring it up again.

“But, yeah, it was a disappointing result but I think most importantly it’s a good event for the fans, especially the fans in DC, to come and see some really good players.”

Rooney praised the occasion and opponent in the post-match press conference at Audi Field, but he also laid bare some irritation with aspects of the event.

Asked what he took out of the game as an up-and-coming coach, the former England forward said with a smile: “Absolutely nothing.

“Listen, it’s difficult. On Monday the players all arrived and we did a small-sided game.

“On Tuesday, as a I suggested, I didn’t want them training at the National Mall but that’s where we trained and we can’t do anything.

“We did head tennis so literally had not time whatsoever to do any tactics whatsoever so you put the players out there and you hope they can figure things out and against a team like Arsenal that’s very difficult to do.”

Another matter that got under Rooney’s skin around the All-Star game revolved around broadcasters Apple, who he claims prevented some of his staff working as usual.

“I think everything around the game is great and it’s great publicity for the league moving forward,” he said.

“Obviously Apple coming into the league as well has been great – although they didn’t allow my staff to sit in their seats today.

“My staff got kicked out of their seats today by members of Apple.

“And I wouldn’t be doing my staff a service if I didn’t bring that up because if you’re getting asked to do the game with your staff, you expect your staff to have seats to sit in although I do think Apple will help the league moving forward.”

As for Arsenal counterpart Arteta, he was quick to allay concerns over Trossard after the Belgium international limped off early in the second half.

“Trossard got a knock and we don’t want to take any risks at this stage,” he said. “He had some pain. We’ll see how he is tomorrow but I don’t expect it to be anything big.”

It was a fine start to Arsenal’s pre-season tour, which continues onto New Jersey and Los Angeles to take on Manchester United and Barcelona.

“It was a great occasion, great atmosphere,” Arteta added. “Great to see so many Arsenal supporters fill the stadium.

“We had great moments in the game, moments especially in the first half that weren’t that great but we’re still very early in pre-season.

“It was great to see some debuts with Jurrien, with Auston (Trusty) and with Declan obviously. Really pleased with the result.”

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