Victory With A Familiar Refrain
UEFA Champions League
Arsenal 1 – 0 AS Roma
1 – 0 van Persie (37 pen)
Post-match Arsene observed that the only regret that he had was that the margin of victory was only a single goal. Certainly, the team will be looking at the match, acutely embarrassed by some of the misses that they contrived in this fixture. Whether such profligacy in front of goal will be costly remains to be seen.
Criticism by the manager of the lack of urgency in moving the ball forwards on Saturday had to have been worked on in training; the speed and movement left their supposedly superior Italian opponents floundering, chasing shadows or more importantly, lunging at them.
The inclusion of Diaby in the midfield from the start gave some impetus, with the Frenchman’s direct approach providing a driving force from the centre of the pitch. In turn, this appeared to give his colleague’s the confidence to push on. Denilson, Nasri and Eboue were all more forceful in their actions. It led to perhaps the team’s best performance overall against good quality opposition since the visit of Liverpool to The Emirates before Christmas. Yet, despite this, confidence in front of goal remains fragile.
I commented on Saturday’s game that the list of the culprits was a veritable Who’s Who. Last night was no different other than it was Bendtner and Eboue who were guilty of the worst excesses. The former’s miss in the second half undermined his belief that he is worth a starting place ahead of all others. He must convert these chances and in times to come, I have no doubt that he will. Sadly, we are living in the here and now. For Eboue, it was an absolute shame that the ball did not nestle in the net. He had done all of the really hard work beforehand. Anticipation, calmness, thinking about what he was going to do. Everything that encompassed his blistering start at Arsenal as a right back was in that movement. A real pity that having bamboozled the defence, he could not put enough curl on the ball to beat the despairing lunge of the last defender and find the back of the onion bag.
Memories are evoked of the run to Paris in ‘95 and ‘06; single goal home victories without conceding. What is required is that the clean sheets which were so prevalent then be replicated now. Defensively, the back four dealt comfortably with everything that Roma had to offer. And when they did breach, Almunia was up to that, confirming his marked improvement over the past couple of seasons. In particular, his crucial save from Motta with the match goalless may yet prove to be a pivotal moment. The ‘Away Goals’ rule that Arsene was so critical of beforehand may yet prove to be his saviour in the return.
For the goal itself, there can no argument that it was a penalty and cleverly won at that with van Persie drawing a rash trip from behind from Mexes. It begs the question quite what you have to do to be sent off in a Champions League tie. Mexes was already on a yellow card and in England, it is not beyond much doubt that he would have walked. It highlights the differences between domestic and continental referees. Mind you, so does starting the second half with only nine Arsenal players on the pitch. Presumably, the club can appeal Toure’s booking for the technical nature of it was caused by an incorrect decision to kick-off. An English referee would have made certain of the numbers of players. Their speciality in the gaffe’s department is three yellow cards in a World Cup match.
The result was a poke in the eye with a sharp stick for those critics who believed Roma to be vastly better than Arsenal. The pace of the home side’s play left them dishevelled and misshapen. It will be a different match in the second leg with Roma looking to control the game rather than letting Arsenal dominate them. Despite this, the squad should be quietly confident of winning through for they were left with nothing to fear from last night. The important thing is to carry forward the performance to Saturday and take three important points.
It is another good day to be a gooner. ‘til Tomorrow
Posted on February 25, 2009, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, AS Roma, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 299 Comments.