Arsenal (0) 3 - 1 (0) Tottenham Hotspur|
(aet: 1-1 at 90 minutes)
Ashburton Grove, Wednesday 31st January 2007
League Cup semi-final second leg
(Arsenal win 5-3 on aggregate, see
first leg report)
Hoyte Toure Senderos Traore (Clichy 63)
Diaby (Cesc 79) Gilberto Denilson
Walcott (Rosicky 63) Aliadiere
The Arsenal line-up was as predicted,
but with Jeremie Aliadiere playing on the left of a 5 man midfield and
Emmanuel Adebayor on his own up front. This gave the midfield the strength
and flexibility to play like Arsenal, with people popping up all over the place,
and it meant that neither Abou Diaby nor Denilson had to play on
the wing. Both players had superb games. With them, Gilberto, Cesc Fabregas
and Mathieu Flamini we really do have a quite breathtaking
central midfield squad. Having said that, even with the obvious talent
and strength of Diaby and Denilson, it was still noticeable the
extent to which the introduction of Cesc, and the resumption of his
partnership with Gilberto after a 3 game gap, took our midfield
domination to another level.
The visitors line-up took a late blow. Aaron Lennon had been ill during
the previous night. They thought he would be ok but he had to pull out
at the last minute, after the team list had gone to the ref. So not
only did they not have him on the bench, they couldn't draft anyone
else in to bring their bench back up to 5. Hossam Ghaly came in for
Lennon and was probably their most effective attacking player.
They started with Robbie Keane partnering Jermaine Defoe up front.
After 2 minutes Philippe Senderos got caught on the forehead by a
stray (but unintentional) arm from Ghaly, and had to go off for
treatment. He was ok though, just had to spend the rest of the
match with a white bandage round his head. It didn't seem to affect
him too much, as he had one of his dominant-in-the-air games (got
caught out on the ground once or twice though). While he was off the
pitch Adebayor put some good pressure on their defence, leading to
Diaby winning the ball and breaking into the box, but the ball just ran
away from him.
The game quickly developed into an end-to-end thriller. Jermaine
Jenas played a ball forward for Malbranque but Manuel Almunia came
out well to clear. We broke through Theo Walcott who put a decent
cross in but Dawson got there before Adebayor and cleared.
On 10 minutes we had a real scare. Keane beat the offside trap, getting clear up
the inside left. But he was a bit slow getting the ball out from his
feet as he came into the box from the side, and Almunia pounced on
the chance, storming out to block at Keane's feet and then jumping up
to continue his run, following the ball to the touchline to clear
it out for a throw. He even had the presence of mind to jump up again
and off te pitch to grab the ball, preventing any possibility of
Keane taking the throw quickly and taking advantage of
the keeper's being so far out of position. Great keeping.
Zakora got muscled off the ball by Denilson as he charged
towards our box, but Senderos wasted the chance to set Aliadiere
off on the break. The ref had a word with Zakora presumably for a
suspected dive, which looked rather unfair to me.
Then, just a couple of minutes after Keane's chance, Kolo Toure
missed the best chance of the half. It started with a good break up
the left with Armand Traore then Aliadiere winning a corner. The
corner was scrambled clear eventually then moved forward again
by the Arsenal. Denilson played a nice one-two with Toure and
hit a great shot which Robinson saved but spilled. Toure had
followed the shot in and got to the ball first, but in trying to
take the ball round the keeper he kind of kicked it into the
ground and it bounced too wide for him to get there in time to
turn it goalwards. Probably should have just tried to lift it
gently over the keeper.
Walcott had been struggling to get into the game. On 17 minutes
he was put clear by a great Gilberto pass inside the full-back,
but Walcott's cross went behind Adebayor. His corners weren't
working any better, always seeming to go far too low to the
first defender. They broke dangerously off one of these but
Kolo got back to make a big tackle - still inside the Spurs
half but with acres of scary space in front of the breaking white
Denilson got unlucky with a yellow card when Defore ran at him
with a quick change of direction. A foul maybe but hard to see
how the Brazilian could have gotten out of the way so why the
We broke well on 22. After Gilberto did superbly to win the ball and
retain it, then sent Diaby down the right. He fed Aliadiere in
the box on that side who came up with a neat turn but his low shot
went wide of the far post.
We were having a very good spell.
Theo won a free kick deep on the right which he took and hit too low
towards the near side of the box, an easy cut-out for the first
defender... like his corners I'm sorry to say.
A minute later,
the next free kick from that wing and looped it into the box. The
ball was cleared to Adebayor on the left corner of the box
who tried an audacious chip over the crowded box, but it was
just too strong to creep in under the far top corner. Shades of
Liam Brady vs Pat Jennings.
Adebayor went sliding in from behind to try to win back a ball
which Theo had lost being fouled himself (not given though). Ade
looked lucky not to be booked for that one.
The left wing thing seemed to be suiting Aliadiere. He got back well
to defend and deny Chimbonda. Tottenham were having a spell themselves.
Malbranque put Defore through but he was offside (and cocked up the
cross anyway). Then Hoyte gave the ball away on the right and Defoe got
forward to the goalline but again his cross was poor, going out beyond the
far top corner with Almunia watching it confidently.
Diaby showed his strength, holding players off as he brought the
ball in from the left, finding space for a strong 25 yarder which was
deflected over for a corner. This corner Theo managed to get off
the ground, a bit too much though and it cleared the box and out
for a goal kick.
Traore got beat by Ghaly and his cross found Malbranque sneaking
into the box unmarked, but he put his header wide.
great strength receiving the ball and muscling past his marker, but he
sliced his shot wide. In injury time he had a better effort which
flew just over the crossbar.
The second half started with more strong play from Diaby (showing in
this match exactly why he's been compared to Patrick Vieira), he
put Aliadiere through and he won a corner. A better one from Theo
this time, an easy catch for Robinson but at least that meant it had
got somewhere near the goalmouth.
Ghaly (looking their most dangerous player) got the better of Traore
again and hit a dangerous low cross which Toure did well to stretch
and cut out.
Theo went on a good run down the right and tried a
chip to the far top corner. Decent effort this time just a tad
On 51, Ghaly got past Traore again and went down hopefully in the box when
the full back tried to get back at him. We came away with the ball,
Senderos bringing it out of defence, but Ghaly got the red mist and
hacked him down. Diaby came over a bit unnecessarily (I think I mentioned
he was playing like Vieira!) and went briefly head-to-head with
Ghaly as a crowd gathered. Got himself booked too (along with Ghaly).
Toure intercepted another cross, from Keane this time. Up the other
end, Theo did better, running up the wing but further infield
than usual (that's the ticket!). He ended up losing the ball but
perhaps it was Denilson's fault: rather than giving Theo a passing
option the Brazilian ran along the same line and got in his way. Soon
after, Theo put a decent cross over from the right, Adebayor rose
well in the box and tried to direct his header back across goal inside
the right post, but it went beyond.
Theo did a 1-2 with Denilson but put a bad cross in. Tottenham
broke and we needed a great tackle from Kolo to stop it.
Adebayor came over to the right a couple of times to help Theo,
which looked just what he needed. We won a corner, it was cleared,
Almunia and was forced way out of his box to clear as the visitors broke
but once again the keeper got it just right.
With just under half an hour of normal time to go, Wenger gave up on
Walcott and on came Tomas Rosicky. This was done while Traore was
receiving treatment after pulling off a great tackle on Keane. At
first it looked like cramp but obviously it was more than that, he
ended up being stretchered off and on came Gael Clichy. As good as
the youngsters had been overall, these 2 changes probably made all the
difference. Arsenal's second string may be better than most first strings,
but they're still some way off being as good as Arsenal's. Rosicky's
use of the ball is infinitely better than Theo's, and while Traore
had done ok he'd been beaten a few times. And the attacking threat of
Clichy helped keep them pegged back down the other wing.
Almost immediately, in fact, Clichy went on a good run, dribbling
in from the wing and through a few defenders. He lost it on the
edge of the box but the ball popped back for Denilson who hit a
low shot wide.
Adebayor won a foul off of Gardner who won himself
a talking-to from the ref. Looked like our man had been leaning into him,
to me. Hey ho. Denilson went for goal with the free kick but Dawson
managed to get to it and head it over for a corner.
Adebayor did brilliantly on an apparent lost cause, running for a
ball heading out for a corner. He kept it in and set up Denilson
who brought the ball infield and tried to catch Robinson out at the
near post, but hit the side netting.
Rosicky started to dominate whenever he got near the ball, bursting
past players when he got it, using the ball cleverly and with great
attacking purpose. Zakora got booked bringing him down as he charged
towards the box. This time Tommy took the free kick and again
it was headed over the bar by Dawson (looking a very handy defender
indeed). 15 minutes to go and Aliadiere was bundled over in the D,
but he'd lost control of the ball already.
Then at last with 12 minutes to go we got the breakthrough we
deserved. Unsurprisingly it involved Rosicky heavily. He started it
with a one two with Denilson outside the box to right of centre.
He hit the retunr ball first time, a screamer of a shot which would
have given Robinson no chance if it hadn't been straight at him.
Still, he could only stick his hands up and let the ball bounce off
them. It rebounded to outside the box and to a red shirt (not sure who).
Tottenham had no time to regroup, while Rosicky was totally alert to
the possibilities. He moved into space on the edge of the box, took
the return ball, and saw Adebayor lurking to his left. The Czech
slipped the ball into the striker's path and as Robinson came over to
narrow the angle Adebayor passed the ball coolly past him and inside the
As seems to be the norm these days, Adebayor went straight to the
touchline to celebrate with a bit of a boogie and a hug with
Thierry Henry. So great to see they've got such a good
thing going - such a contrast with whatever relationship the
club captain had with Jose Antonio Reyes...
Straight away, Cesc Fabregas came on for Diaby (who, it turns
out, had twisted a leg possibly quite badly).
We had a dangerous attack pulled back wrongly for offside. Adebayor had been
in an offside position when the ball was played forward for him,
but a defender had cut the ball out with a header which found
Aliadiere and gave us good attacking possibilities. I thought that
these days they weren't supposed to give the offside if the ball
didn't get through...?
6 minutes to go. They got the ball into our box and it was cleared,
looping away past the right corner of the box. Denilson went for it
and was penalised - it looked very harsh to me as he was just
going for the ball and being strong. Jenas took the free-kick,
looping it towards goal. There had been a similar one earlier
in the half which had bounced through safely but ominously to
Almunia. This time, Mido (on as a sub for Malbranque a few minutes
earlier) snuck in front of Kolo and glanced a header past the keeper
for 1-1. Damn.
We nearly got in a mess from our own kick-off (how can you not be
ready for your own kick-off?). It was a nervy end-to-end end to
full time. Aliadiere broke and squared for Adebayor who scuffed his
shot beyond the far post. They broke and there was a worrying
scramble or two in our box. We were rushing our balls out of defence.
Mido (thank god he wasn't on the pitch earlier!) made a bit of a fool
of Senderos just outside the D, nicking the ball through the
defender's legs to make space for a shot, but he dragged his shot
wide of Almunia's right hand post (and the keeper looked beaten).
In injury time we broke well through Cesc, Rosicky, and Adebayor,
and then to Denilson who hit another excellent shot which Robinson
palmed over the bar. Then Toure got into space on the left of the box
and forced a good point blank save from the outrushing Robinson.
The ball looped up beyond the far post where Gilberto rose to head it
back towards Kolo. Robinson was out of position but Dawson was
there at the post to head clear and deny the defender a second
Extra time. Semi-final against Tottenham. End-to-end. This was
what it's all about. The noise was awesome.
Extra time started with another unlucky free kick
given away by Denilson. This one came looping towards the
far post where Chimbonda got a free header which went past the post.
But from that point on Arsenal took control again. And as with the
first 2 substitutions, Cesc coming on for Diaby showed what a difference
the finished article can make. Mind you, Cesc's a freak, and his
understanding with Gilberto is freakish too when they're combining
like this: total domination of the middle of the pitch. I'm not
sure that Paddy and Petit were ever this good. Cesc could do with
a few more goals though. He seemed to think so too, hitting a
30 yarder but straight at Robinson. Denilson did the same.
Right at the end of the first period of extra time, Denilson hit a
cross into the box from our right. Not a great cross, and going
straight to Spurs' new signing Rocardo Rocha (a second half sub).
The ball was coming to him at ankle height but for some reason he
decided to get down on all fours and head it out. Ooops. The ball just
popped forward a few yards to the space which Aliadiere was in on
the right of their box. He had back to goal as he got to the ball
but turned and shot in one motion, sending the ball low inside
the far post.
The whistle went straight away I think, we were
still lost in celebration. As the players regrouped for the
start of the last 15 minutes the truth settled on us... Spurs
still only needed one more goal, to take it to penalties.
Keane was struggling though, and while Mido was looking a
threat Ghaly and Malbranque - their best attacking players -
had gone off in the double substitution which had brought Mido
and Huddlestone on after 80 minutes. We maintained control.
Gilberto had a go with a long range shot which ended up 15 yards wide.
Then with 7 minutes to go a long ball into their box was nodded on by
Adebayor, and straight to Rosicky's feet. He showed great composure,
moving the ball across the box to the right, waiting for the moment
that the goal opened up in front of him. The keeper and defender did
well to keep in front of him, but eventually Tomas saw goal and
pulled the trigger. It hit the inside of the right post and flew
across the face of goal, hitting Chimbonda a foot in front of the line and
just creeping over the line before he could hook it out of the goal.
Fair play to the linesman, who spotted that the ball had gone in.
Fair play to Rosicky for his cool finish, but it goes down as
an own goal.
Up the other end, Mido was
definitely the danger. He hit a snap shot past Almunia's left hand
post with the keeper beat again. Chimbonda had a header deflected behind
for a corner. Up the other end Aliadiere got shoved in the back
going for the ball in the D, nothing was given but the main thing
was that he got back up again - he's the last player you'd wish another
injury on. Speaking of which... well, you've probably heard about
Ashley Cole by now.
We started to celebrate but it still felt tense. It looked so
unlikely but imagine they scored now... needing just one more
flukey moment then to win the game outright at the death.
Into the last minute though, it all looked over. We broke up the
right through Adebayor and Cesc, then finding Aliadiere who shot
beyond the far post. To be fair, they didn't give up. In injury
time Defoe had a great effort deflected over. From the corner
Almunia came out of his goal to make a great catch under pressure.
The game ended with Rosicky, Adebayor, and Cesc taking the piss
a bit with some keep-ball up the lefty wing. A fitting end, these
three if anyone had been the difference between the teams.
But there will rightly be much talk about Denilson and Diaby.
Walcott needs time and has much left to learn, and some
strength to build up, but these two are so close to being the
finished article that they looked like they could walk into
most Premiership teams. One word of caution on this, though:
they were playing in a 5 man midfield with Gilberto, coming back
from a 3 game rest looking as fresh as anything and as good as ever,
which gave these youngsters the freedom to play.
Traore had another decent game, possibly
being found out a little more than in previous ties, possibly
just looking shaky in contrast to the awesome Clichy after the
Arsenal play Chelsea in the final at the Cardiff Millennium
stadium on Sunday February 25th. It's going to be fascinating.
Wenger promises, again, to play some of the second string. If fit,
I think we can expect to see Diaby, Denilson, Hoyte, and possibly
both Baptista and Aliadiere (personally I'd like to see Adebayor
in front of an attacking 5 man midfield like in this one).