Didier Drogba had reason to celebrate against Arsenal yet again, but a striker at the other end of his career, Chuba Akpom, struck in the dying minutes to give the Premier League side a 2-1 win over the MLS All-Stars in San Jose.
Even aged 38 and playing his trade thousands of miles away from London, Drogba was not yet done tormenting Arsenal. The Ivorian striker, who menaced Arsenal for years while across London at Chelsea, made it 16 goals against Arsene Wenger's squad, equalizing Joel Campbell's opener shortly before halftime. But, while a penalty shootout may have been a fair way to separate the sides at Avaya Stadium, 20-year-old substitute Akpom tapped in Nacho Monreal's cross with three minutes remaining.
In the 21st Major League Soccer All-Star Game and 12th involving a European club invitee, the best that MLS has to offer was well worth a share of the spoils. Early on, though, it appeared Arsenal's pace on the counter might be decisive against what was a veteran starting lineup from the All-Stars, including a midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Kaka and Kyle Beckerman.
Theo Walcott had several opportunities to make his blistering pace count, but, once again demonstrated that he lacks the cutting edge in the central striker role. His most glaring misfire came when bursting through a last tackle to get one-on-one with Andre Blake in the All-Star goal but striking a woefully tame left-footed shot straight at the Philadelphia Union goalkeeper.
Still, Arsenal did have the opening goal just 11 minutes in. A ball over the top invited the pacey Campbell to run onto it and an unsurprising miscommunication between Blake and Montreal Impact defender Laurent Ciman led to the Belgium international taking the Arsenal man down as he looked set to put the ball into the unguarded net. In a competitive match, it would surely have been a red card. But the spirit of the occasion meant Ciman escaped with a yellow. Still, Campbell still made the All-Stars pay, the Costa Rican beating the dive of Blake into the bottom corner.
There was plenty to entertain the crowd in the opening 25 minutes. Pirlo and Kaka exhibited some of the passing that made them huge stars in Europe in their prime and threatening to break open a patchwork Arsenal defense featuring Krystian Bielik and new signing Rob Holding in the center. One trademark pass from Pirlo gave former Tottenham man Giovani dos Santos a chance to fire at goal, only for Cech to keep him out.
With a MLS game to come Saturday afternoon, Pirlo and New York City FC teammate David Villa only lasted to the 30-minute mark. But the changes, bringing on the New York Red Bulls' Sacha Kljestan and Montreal Impact's Ignacio Piatti, combined with the MLS player's greater fitness levels, helped get the All-Stars back into the game. And Kljestan was heavily involved in squaring the game.
It was the midfielder, who was a part of the Anderlecht side that came back from a 3-0 deficit to draw 3-3 against Arsenal at the Emirates in a Champions League game two years ago, who cut out a ball out of the back and quickly picked out Dos Santos with a fine pass out to the left. Dos Santos cut inside and found Drogba, who, eventually, did the rest.
Drogba, now at Montreal Impact and still scoring regularly, initially looked set to be denied a 16th, and surely final goal to savor against the Gunners. His former Chelsea teammate Petr Cech came out on top against him at the first time of asking before Bielik blocked his second attempt on the line. But Drogba was not to be denied, getting one over on the man he spent nine years alongside at Stamford Bridge as well as the club he has inflicted so much pain upon in years gone by.
The halftime interval saw an expected flurry of substitutions, with eight for the All-Stars and five for Arsenal, including bringing a first experience in an Arsenal shirt for the club's one major summer signing, Granit Xhaka. The Swiss midfielder acquitted himself well and showed that he could be a real asset this season from set-pieces.
But the All-Stars had their chances to come away with a third straight victory in the annual contest. Sebastian Giovinco, the MLS MVP from last season, brought a spark with his introduction and forced a fine diving save from Cech just three minutes into the second half.
The golden chance, though, came with eight minutes remaining. Orlando City striker Cyle Larin broke free down the right and held the ball up well, getting the better of Arsenal defender Callum Chambers, and laying it off perfectly into the path of Chris Wondolowski. But the veteran striker, the fourth highest scorer in MLS history and playing in front of his home fans, blasted waywardly over the top.
Four minutes later that miss was to be punished as Arsenal got its first victory of preseason, ahead of a meeting with Mexican side Chivas on Sunday.