Arsenal (2) 4 - 2 (2) Wigan Athletic|
Highbury, Sunday 7th May 2006
Eboue Toure Campbell Cole
Hleb (van Persie 78) Gilberto Cesc Pires (Ljungberg 78)
Henry Reyes (Bergkamp 73)
Wigan had the first chance of the game on about 2 minutes with a
free kick from just outside the box, which was fired a yard or 2 over thebar.
A few minutes later Jose Antonio Reyes went on a great run down the left,
beat a defender to get to the goal-line, and cut it back for
Thierry Henry whose shot from just inside the left corner of
the box was blocked after a yard.
Moments later, a nice combination of Reyes, Henry, and Ashley Cole on the left
created anaother promising attack. Henry put the ball through to Aelxander_Hleb on
the right of the bix. His first touch took it a bit wide but Alex
did well to win a corner. Reyes took it, and the ball was cleared back
to him off by a defensive header. Reyes took the ball down well,
came inside, and then tried to cut back towards the goal-line
past a defender. The defender got a good block in but the ball just
popped back out to Cesc Fabregas who'd been supporting Reyes a few yards
further upfield. He whipped in a cross which was glanced on by Sol Campbell
and feel to Robert Pires right in front of goal. His first shot
was well saved on the goal-line, but it straight came back to Bobby
who made no mistake with the second effort, despite having to reach up with his
boot to get to it.
A couple of minutes later a huge roar went around the ground as news came through
that West Ham had gone ahead against Tottenham. But Wigan were preparing to
take a free kick, and while we were celebrating Tottenham's misfortune
David Thompson swung it towards the near post. Jens Lehmann almost certainly should have come off his line to
claim it, but the defence were also guilty of not reacting, and Paul Scharner
(the Austriuan striker who scored a crucial League Cup
goal against us earlier in the season) nipped in to poke it past
Henry and Cole tried to break down the left and lost the ball, but
Sol was covering well for Ashley on that side and stopped Wigan from
Then we had a couple of attacks, first Henry's chip into the box
was headed straight up into the air in his own box, but no-one was
close enough in to stop the keeper from claiming it. Then Reyes broke well again,
but his final ball was just too far in front of Henry's run.
On the quarter-hour, Sol made a clumsy challenge on Roberts in our box,
which replays later showed deserved a penalty. Then we won the ball well in midfield and Reyes
hit a great pass for Robert Pires to run onto, but he blasted into the
side-netting under pressure,
as the keeper came out to narrow the angle.
Reyes made a break in the inside right
position and slipped the ball into the box for Henry but it was too close
to the keeper. Then Ashley went on a great run and got into the box with the ball
only to be well tackled. The ball bounced up and hit him on the hand and he was
rather unlucky to have a free kick given against him for it.
Another nice move on 25 minutes, Henry was put through into the box
but had to jump out of the way as the keeper collided with a defender and
the ball ran clear.
But Wigan were threatening a bit more at the other end too, and it
took some good defending (by Toure and Cole in particular) to keep
On about the half hour, Reyes was clearly pushed over in the box,
almost as definite a penalty as Campbell on Roberts earlier, but also
Then about 3 minutes later, Eboue gave away a free kick a long way
out on their left. Lehmann clearly wasn't expecting a shot, which is
understandable. But he was caught out of position when Thompson took
it and, like for their first goal, swung it towards the near post.
Jens scrambled over but too late and we were 2-1 down!
But less than 2 minutes later it was all square again. Hleb did brilliantly
battling for the ball 10 yards outside their box. The ball fell to
Pires whose first touch was a superb defence-splitting pass, finding
Henry just beating the offside trap to get onto it and score with a
cool low shot.
At the very same moment, Tottenham equalised at Upton Park. Talk about rollercoasters!
Eboue went on a terrific run up the right and hit a low ball into
the box which was eventually cleared after a lengthy scramble. Then Lehmann
had to make an excellent high catch from a dangerous long cross into his box.
And in injury time a Wigan corner to the far post was met by a looping header back
across the face of goal and onto
the roof of the net, with Lehmann stranded if it had snuck under the bar. The last action
of the first half was a very close offside given against Henry, who would have
been clear on goal. It looked to me like he'd been in his own half when
thepass was struck, and he clearly thought so too.
The second half started with a nice flick through by Reyes but Henry
was again given offside (rightly so this time). Up the other end, a good ball
into our box beat Lehmann and a defender and fell for Camara who
skewed it out for a goal kick. Then McCulloch shot over the bar from just outside thebox.
6 minutes after the break, the watching Gooners' spirits were raised
as news came through of a West Ham penalty, and then dashed again when
we heard that Teddy Sheringham had stepped up to take it. Sure enough,
his weak effort was saved. Both games drawing, and Tottenham had
Camara got lucky with an offside call not made, but his woeful cross-field ball
went out safely for an Arsenal throw.
Then on 55 minutes Thompson, who'd been responsible for both Wigan
goals, made amends with a crazy back pass. He actually chose the
option in preference to passing to abny of 2 or 3 outfield teammates
who had space and were closer, and clearly hadn't seen Henry lurking.
Thierry picked up the ball gratefully, rounded the keeper, had a
little (worrying) look behind him to confirm that a defnder was bearing down on him,
and passed the ball into the empty net just in time before the
tackle came in.
Lehmann slipped as the ball was played into his box but there was enough
time and space for him to get up and gather. Then he had to come right out of
his box to clear, right by the touchline: a move which would have worried
us a couple of years ago when he did it all too often but which these days
he only seems to do when it's going to work.
On the hour, Arsenal were given a free kick up the other end and there was a whole load of
arguing about it - I'm not sure why. Cesc took it quickly but Uriah Rennie
called it back as he was still dealing with the minor melee that had
developed. Eventually, Cesc retook it and touched the ball to Reyes
who dragged his long-range shot well wide.
2 minutes later a terrific Arsenal build-up, from right to left, ended with
Cole slipping the bal to Pires on the overlap. He took it deep then
chipped the ballback into the box where Cesc met it with a goal-bound header, cleared off the line.
Freddie Ljungberg came on for Pires. Almost immediately Henry chipped the ball
into the box for him and Freddie was pulled back. Rennie had no hesitation
awarding this penalty, and had no choice in sending the the defender Johansson off.
A bit unlucky for the guy, who had also just come off the bench and hadn't
touched the ball yet. Henry placed the spot kick low to the keeper's left.
4-2 up and surely allthat could stop us now was a winner for Tottenham
at Upton Park.
With 12 minutes to go, Dennis Bergkamp came on for Reyes. He got a huge cheer,
as befits the last Highbury appearance (and possibly last Arsenal appearance)
of the great man. But the cheer got even louder as news came through that
West Ham had taken the lead! The songs for Bergkamp quickly turned into
an Arsenal fans' rendition of 'I'm forever blowing bubbles'.
Freddie went on a nice run in from the left wing and tried to
catch the keeper out with a near post shot. Then with just over 10
minutes to go, Robin van Persie came on for Hleb.
It would have been so fitting if the final goal at Highbury had been a Bergkamp
special, and he so nearly made it happen with a chip from the
right corner of the box, but it was just too high to creep inside the
far top corner.
Gilberto was put through into the box but touched it on a bit too far and got barged as he tried to get to it.
Still, her managed to force a corner from which Campbell headed well wide.
But all our thoughts were at Upton Park where West Ham were still ahead,
and before long the news we wanted came through.
Given the terrible start to the season, and the injury problems we've had,
securing 4th place (see final table
and stealing the Champions League place from Tottenham has to be seen
as a great result). And what a way to say goodbye to the stadium. It
added just the touch of euphoria that we needed as the sad Highbury farewell celebrations
began. Fair play to Arsenal (and West Ham!) for putting together just the right
kind of day.