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Hibernian 2-1 Arsenal: Mikel Arteta’s side lose pre-season opener at Easter Road

Arsenal’s pre-season preparations got off to a losing start as they were beaten 2-1 by Hibernian at Easter Road.

The Gunners, who included Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Willian, Eddie Nketiah and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in their starting line-up, were behind in the 21st minute as Martin Boyle pounced on goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo’s error to hand Hibs the lead.

Half-time substitutes Nicolas Pepe and Thomas Partey both went close to an equaliser in the early stages of the second half, but Hibs capitalised on more defensive frailties from Arsenal as Daniel Mackay added a second.

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta during Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at Hibernian

Arsenal spurned a late opportunity as Kevin Dabrowski brilliantly kept out Pepe’s penalty, but the Gunners did eventually get their goal as Emile Smith Rowe turned home Hector Bellerin’s cross.

However, it wasn’t enough to stop defeat as Hibernian held on for victory in what was a much-needed workout for Mikel Arteta’s side.

Arsenal’s pre-season continues on Saturday when they face Scottish champions Rangers (kick off 2pm), while Hibernian are back in action on Friday at Raith Rovers (kick-off 7pm).

How Arsenal stumbled at Hibernian…

Nketiah, who has been linked with a move away from the Emirates Stadium this summer, was handed an early chance to impress but the England U21 striker, who was one-on-one with former Gunners goalkeeper Matt Macey, fired the ball wide of the target.

Eddie Nketiah misses a chance to open the scoring for Arsenal at Easter Road
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Eddie Nketiah misses a chance to open the scoring for Arsenal at Easter Road

Arsenal continued to put the hosts under pressure and Macey had to be alert to deny Reiss Nelson before Nketiah headed another chance wide.

However, Arteta’s side’s positive start was undone by an awful moment for young keeper Okonkwo, who was making his debut for the Gunners. The 19-year-old failed to deal with Cedric Soares’ back pass and missed the bouncing ball, allowing Boyle to tap into an empty net.

Martin Boyle (R) celebrates his goal to make it 1-0
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Martin Boyle (R) celebrates his goal to make it 1-0

Okonkwo would have been feeling better moments later as he kept out Boyle’s long-range effort before Steven Bradley’s low strike hit the upright as Hibs pressed for a second just before the half-time interval.

Arsenal made a number of changes at the break as Okonkwo, Harry Clarke, Maitland-Niles, Nelson, Nketiah, Willian and Aubameyang made way for Karl Jakob Hein, Omar Rekik, Smith Rowe, Pepe, Partey, Alexandre Lacazette and Folarin Balogun, while Dąbrowski replaced Macey in goal for Hibs, and he was thrust straight into the action, producing a superb save to keep out Pepe’s goal-bound free kick.

Arsenal's Thomas Partey during a pre-season friendly at Hibernian
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Arsenal’s Thomas Partey during a pre-season friendly at Hibernian

There were more changes for both sides as Bellerin replaced Cedric for the Gunners, while Josh Campbell and Drey Wright replaced Scott Allan and Bradley for the hosts.

Arsenal went close to an equaliser when Partey’s powerful free kick had Dabrowski beaten, but the ball rattled the inside of the post as Hibernian survived.

Kevin Dabrowski saves Nicolas Pepe's penalty
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Kevin Dabrowski saves Nicolas Pepe’s penalty

And the Scottish side went on to capitalise on more poor defensive work from Arsenal as Mackay ghosted in unmarked at the far post from a corner to head home and extend Hibs’ lead further.

Arsenal did have the chance to get back into the game late on as a push on Balogun in the Hibs box resulted in a penalty, but Pepe’s spot kick was saved by Dabrowski to somewhat sum up the Gunners’ evening.

They did get on the score sheet late on as Smith Rowe converted Bellerin’s inviting cross, but it proved to be only a consolation.

Emile Smith Rowe scores for Arsenal to reduce Hibernian's lead
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Emile Smith Rowe scores for Arsenal to reduce Hibernian’s lead


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