Arsenal’s Progress In Champions League Continues Unabated
…or Serbs You Right For Doubting
Champions League Matchday 2, Group H
Partizan Belgrade 1 – 3 Arsenal
0 – 1 Arshavin (14)
1 – 1 Cleo (32 pen)
1 – 2 Chamakh (70)
1 – 3 Squillaci (82)
Jovanovic sent off (53)
Arshavin missed pen (54)
Cleo missed pen (83)
Arsenal took another confident stride towards the knockout phases of the Champions League, comfortably easing past Partizan Belgrade. The Serbs had promised a hostile atmosphere but it turned out to be more monotone and monotonous than partisan. Such was Arsenal’s dominance that they could afford another penalty miss, Andrey Arshavin the culprit this time around, the list of takers diminishing as his poorly taken penalty was saved by Stoijkovic’s feet.
Criticism of Lukasz Fabianski eased a little, the test being whether or not he can consistently produce the performance levels he showed last night. A late penalty save from Cleo, the Pole almost Laine down to stop the gently stroked effort. Aside from that he had little to do and when it was required, he produced the necessary saves, maintaining his concentration levels through to the final whistle.
Wenger promised that he would make changes following the home defeat to West Bromwich Albion and they were duly wrung, but not too many. Djourou and Gibbs replaced the rested Koscielny and Clichy, Fabianksi and Denilson the injured Almunia and Diaby whilst Wilshere and Rosicky were restored to the starting line-up. The spluttering electrics gave a hint of the evening ahead, Arsenal not at their fluent best, momentary flickers enough as the power was stored in the generator ahead of the weekend visit to Stamford Bridge.
The opening exchanges were unsurprisingly in Partizan’s favour. Cleo dallied, Squillaci harried and Denilson completed the clearance as the Serbs brought danger to the Arsenal penalty area. Fabianski was given a rude welcome to the match as Djourou’s weak header almost allowed in Boya, the Pole clattered in making a clearance he appeared not to know much about.
It was a sideshow however, the main act stepped up to the stage. Arshavin scuttled into the Partizan area, feeding Jack Wilshere. The youngster took two touches, keeping the ball under close control, not allowing the home defence an opportunity to steal possession, before returning the ball to the Russian who drilled home from ten yards. One-nil to the Arsenal, a familiar refrain.
There should have been more, Arshavin was profligate in front of goal, Stoijkovic saved from he and Rosicky before Arshavin lifted the ball over the former Wigan Athletic goalkeeper, only to see Jovanovic make a timely interception before the ball reached the goalline.
With half-time approaching, the missed opportunities were rued. Denilson needlessly handled Petrov’s cross and Cleo very calmly slotted the spot kick home. It looks good when it works but as the Brazilian-born Serb would find later to his cost, lazy when it does not as he would find to his cost later in the match.
Unsurprisingly, Partizan were bolstered and Arsenal slumbered through to half-time, a state of affairs which continued into the second half. Ten minutes in, Arshavin lofted a pass over the top of the Partizan defence, Chamakh became entangled with Jovanovic and used his experience to finagle a spot kick. The Serbian international received a red card for his fumbles, the Moroccan crumbled to the turf under the least influence. With Nasri on the bench, Arshavin crossed himself from the list of penalty takers, attempting power but finding only the feet of Stoijkovic as he dived to his right.
Numerical supremacy confirmed Arsenal’s ascendency in the match. Wilshere had a good run halted before he could find the power or direction in a shot to restore Arsenal’s lead whilst Arshavin was again denied moments later.
The threatened breakthrough was not long in coming. Rosicky crossed and saw Chamakh rise above his marker to send a header crashing onto the crossbar. Such was the power that the rebound was on the edge of the six yard area before anyone but the Arsenal forward realised, Chamakh crisply heading home. The match’s outcome, if not the scoreline, was sealed.
Ten minutes later, Sebastien Squillaci confirmed Arsenal’s maiden victory on Serbian soil, timing his jump to meet Samir Nasri’s corner, a deftly angled header from the near post settled matters.
There was still time for the expected mistakes from the Arsenal goalkeeper to happen. Except no-one had told Fabianski this. Within a minute of the restart, Gibbs fouled ruthlessly on the edge of the area and Cleo’s tame effort from the resultant penalty was effortlessly turned aside by the Pole. And as the final whistle beckoned, a resounding stop from Iliev capped an excellent night’s work for the goalkeeper.
The shrill peep signalled the end of a ‘bits and pieces’ win. ‘Bits and pieces’ of the performance were excellent and provide good foundations for the trip to Chelsea. And sometimes, it is the wins carved from a performance which is not at the top of level of expectations do more for confidence than a crushing victory.
Posted on September 29, 2010, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 246 Comments.