Wigan Athletic (0) 1 - 0 (0) Arsenal|
JJB Stadium, Tuesday 10th January 2006
League Cup semi-final, first leg
Gilbert (larsson 75) Senderos Djourou Cygan
Ljungberg Gilberto Flamini Hleb
Reyes (Cesc 72) Quincy (Lupoli 72)
Paul Scharner's 78th minute header leaves the
tie nicely poised for the return to Highbury in
a fortnight. It was no less than Wigan deserved for
their greater commitment, and it was only after the
goal went in that Arsenal really tried to get the
away goal that would have made us clear favourites.
The home side started well, with more of the ball and a
lot of fast closing-down when we had it, but Arsenal were
defending well too.
The first real chance fell to Freddie Ljungberg though, after
He played a give-and-go from the middle of their half, collecting
the return ball from Mathieu Flamini just outside their box. His first touch took him
inside the box but McMillan did well to track him and make it
awkward. Freddie was off balance when he struck the ball, and
sent it over. For an in-form Freddie, you'd have to have
considered it more than a half chance. It was certainly the
clearest chance of the half, from open play at least.
Arsenal's young defence (the same as for the FA Cup game on
Saturday, with Pascal Cygan at left back instead of
Lauren) were playing a dangerous offside trap, but
Wigan didn't manage to spring it to any dangerous effect.
Manuel Almunia has to be applauded for his positioning, because
a couple of times the linesman's offside decision was very
very close, but the keeper was always there to rush out and deal
with the situation just in case. The second time, on 10 minutes,
he came out with a spectacular diving header outside the box to
deny Jason Roberts. It was a shame the flag went up because it
was a moment that deserved to be more significant.
It's worth noting that Almunia's advanced positioning, so clearly worth applauding in this match, was the same as that which led to those "embarassing" David Seaman moments (which the Cardiff fans were kind to remind us of on Saturday). We always said that Seaman was just lucky and the vilification received was unwarranted.
Quincy was playing in the middle up front, supported by
Freddie on the right and Jose_Antionio_Reyes on the left
(more of a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 than the usual 4-4-2). I have to say
he didn't look right there, and gave the ball away plenty
(not that Jose and others didn't do their fair share of that too!).
So far, centre forward doesn't look like Quincy's position. On the
wing, running at people, he looks classy. But he's going to need
to start doing the other things a bit better. He did switch to the
right wing at times, allowing Freddie to go in the middle of the 3.
Halfway through the half Cavanagh took a free kick from outside
our box on the right. Almunia left a gap on his right hand
side and the free kick was fired at it, bending over the wall,
and the keeper dived well, low, saving nicely at the foot of the post.
We probably did enough to deserve to be level at half time, the
closest other chance of the first half coming right at the end
when a great ball from Reyes into Freddie's path forced the keeper
to come out well and claim at the Swede's feet, just inside the box.
Wigan started the second half better again, but this time they
maintained that ascendancy. But we were still
defending well, especially the central pair of Philippe Senderos
and Johan Djourou (meaning: Wigan got quite a few crosses in
but we dealt with them well).
On 54 minutes, there was a power failure (not just in the ground,
apparently), and the ref was forced to take the teams off. After a
few minutes however they were back out and after a brief period of
re-heating the match was underway again.
Again Almunia's good positioning saw him able to rush out and
deny Roberts, who was given offside again. This time the striker
caught him but the keeper wasn't as badly injured as it first looked.
Wenger seemed to be moaning a bit but in fairness the ball was there
for the striker to have a go at.
A looping cross from the right came over Senderos's head but fortunately
it cleared Johansson's jump too.
Arturo Lupoli came on for Quincy and Cesc Fabregas for Reyes.
Given the way we'd lined up it seemed a shame to me that Lupoli,
a natural centre forward, didn't play more of the game.
On 73 minutes a corner from the right was headed forward from
near the penalty spot. It was going just wide of Almunia's
right hand post but de Zeeuw did well to get his head on it to keep
the ball in. Fortunately Freddie was on hand to head over the bar
from the middle of the 6 yard box.
But a few minutes later there was no stopping Scharner, the Austrian
who'd come off the bench in the first half to make his debut. There
should have been some stopping Teale though, who was allowed to make
a free run into space on the left to latch onto a quick throw. His
cross looped beyond the far post where Scharner jumped high to head
down and just inside Almunia's right hand post.
They had a good go at getting a second. But we held out, and the
0-1 scoreline should ensure a thrilling second leg on the 24th.
It'll be very interesting to see how strong a side Wenger puts
out for that one. It comes 4 days after the trip to Everton in the
Premiership, and a few days (don't know how many yet) before the
trip to Bolton in the FA Cup. There's a midweek game the following
week as well.