Gareth Bale sent a message to Zinedine Zidane after coming off the bench to score and inspire Real Madrid’s comeback against Arsenal at the International Champions Cup.
Bale – tipped for an imminent Madrid exit after sitting out last week’s loss to Bayern Munich – was surprisingly introduced by Zidane at half-time and the Los Blancos outcast helped erase a two-goal deficit in a 2-2 draw before the LaLiga giants won on penalties on Tuesday.
Arsenal – who had Sokratis Papastathopoulos sent off prior to half-time after Nacho Fernandez was dismissed for a handball – were in control thanks to Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, until Bale entered the fray.
Bale pulled a goal back with a simple finish in the 56th minute before fellow substitute Marco Asensio restored parity three minutes later in Maryland, where penalties were needed.
While Bale’s spot-kick was saved by Emiliano Martinez, Madrid still prevailed 3-2 over Unai Emery’s Arsenal in the shoot-out.
Eden Hazard and Madrid made a lively start but the LaLiga giants were eventually pressed back and punished by Arsenal for their sloppiness in the ninth minute at FedEx Field.
Madrid were at sixes and sevens in defence, losing the ball before Lacazette rounded Keylor Navas, but his goal-bound effort was stopped by Nacho’s hand. The referee brandished a red card and the Arsenal forward’s penalty somehow went in after hitting both posts.
Arsenal were in complete control from that point, prompting Zidane to sacrifice Luka Jovic in his first start for Madrid since arriving from Eintracht Frankfurt as defender Raphael Varane was introduced in the 16th minute.
Varane’s presence could not prevent Arsenal from moving 2-0 ahead eight minutes later after a lovely flick from Lacazette sent Aubameyang through and the Gabon international rounded Navas and fired the ball into the net.
Madrid were handed a boost approaching the interval when Arsenal defender Sokratis was sent off for a second yellow card and Karim Benzema almost pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time, but his towering header hit the outside of the post.
Bale’s introduction at the break lifted Madrid and he pulled a goal back 11 minutes into the second half. After Asensio’s long-range effort rattled the post, the Welshman was on hand to score when the goalkeeper’s save spilled to his feet for a simple finish.
Arsenal barely made it out of their own half as Asensio equalised three minutes later – the Spain international receiving a cutback from fellow substitute Marcelo before finding a way past Martinez.
That proved to be the last piece of action from Asensio, who left the field on a stretcher with an apparent knee injury in a worrying scene for the Spaniard and Madrid.
Bale then almost put Madrid ahead in the 67th minute, however his delicate flick was well saved by Martinez, with Arsenal firmly entrenched in their own half.
Bale continued to do it at all ends after he made a goal-line clearance to deny Calum Chambers with 14 minutes remaining before Reiss Nelson curled a shot inches off target.
Eddie Nketiah had a golden opportunity to win it for Arsenal with three minutes of normal time remaining, but he was unable to beat Thibaut Courtois in a one-on-one situation as penalties beckoned.