The ball had barely left Bukayo Saka’s foot and passed Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford as the red smoke bomb went off among Arsenal supporters and sent a cloud billowing over the West Stands of the M&T Bank stadium.
For Arsenal supporters at the Charm City Match in Baltimore – and there were plenty of them, leaving the Ravens’ usually purple and black stands tinged with red – there was a lot to like about their club’s performance. Everton fans, however, lamented a display that included two Arsenal goals in three first-half minutes.
The first, a corner kick that ended just at the feet of striker Gabriel Jesus, showed the same lackluster Everton defending that left the team battling relegation last season. And the second, a breakaway that found its way to Saka, sealed Arsenal 2-0 victory in the pre-season friendly before an announced 39,245.
“It was good, it was crazy,” said Everton striker Alex Iwobi. “The atmosphere was really crazy.”
It’s the start of both teams’ preparation for the English Premier League – one of the top football leagues in the world – which begins its season on August 5. After playing in Baltimore, Everton travel to face Minnesota United of Major League Soccer in Minneapolis. Arsenal are heading to Florida, with games scheduled against MLS’ Orlando City and fellow Premier League side Chelsea.
This led to a wide rotation of squads at half-time, with Everton manager Frank Lampard bringing out all 11 players while Arsenal brought in six substitutes. But the changes didn’t improve the Toffees’ performance much; beyond a corner early in the second half and some tantalizing runs from striker Anthony Gordon, there wasn’t much of a threat to goalkeeper Matt Turner.
Turner, who joined Arsenal this offseason from the New England Revolution, earned the start between the posts and played the full 90 minutes, holding a clean sheet. The native of Park Ridge, New Jersey – the only American on either team – made a strong impression upon his return to the United States.
When he recovered a through ball hit too far for striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the 17th minute, “USA” chants broke out among the crowd.
Those chants continued when Turner deflected a shot from defender Niels Nkounkou a few minutes later, his best save of the night barring a long-range attempt from Salomon Rondon to start the second half. Rondon tried to catch Turner out of goal, and it sent the 28-year-old goalkeeper back to deflect prayer.
“It’s a process. Tonight the good parts, we got a clean sheet,” Turner said. “Also, we were able to be here in front of a big crowd in Baltimore and really feel an atmosphere.”
As tends to be the case with these pre-season outings, the intensity died down as the 90th minute approached. But for the fans in red, including those who held the entire game in the south-west corner of the stadium, the energy did not diminish. As striker Eddie Nketiah pressured goalkeeper Billy Crellin for a hasty clearance, fans chanted his name. They did it again when Nketiah was awarded a free kick in Arsenal’s attacking third.
But the star was Jesus, as he scored his third goal in his second pre-season game for Arsenal since moving from Manchester City.
“He’s creating chaos,” said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta. “He creates chaos and uncertainty, and he’s always in your shoulder, he’s always there to snatch the ball away from you. He’s always in front of goal and he’s a real threat. And he’s what we need. .
In an effort to attract a larger audience to the Camden Yards complex, the Maryland Stadium Authority has supported both the Ravens and Orioles in their recent efforts to hold other events. Paul McCartney played in front of a packed Oriole Park last month, and this fall M&T Bank Stadium will host a college football game between the Navy and Notre Dame.
Arsenal and Everton meeting in Baltimore’s first international football game since 2015 is an extension of that. And when the match was scheduled, Baltimore was still in contention to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Instead, the city missed out.
But there was still energy around the M&T Bank Stadium, particularly from Arsenal fans who saw the Gunners claim victory behind goals from Jesus and Saka.
“I feel for the DMV missing out on the World Cup bid,” Turner said. “Seeing the turnout tonight, and the energy, and how into it the fans were, there was definitely a real game atmosphere.”