Arsenal (0) 3 - 0 (0) Sheffield United|
Ashburton Grove, Saturday 23rd September 2006
Eboue Toure Djourou Gallas
Ljungberg (Baptista 77) Gilberto Cesc Rosicky (Hleb 71)
Henry Adebayor (van Persie 71)
A good win, without being a truly great performance.
United came to try to keep us out and managed it
until the 65th minute when Gallas grabbed his first
goal for the Gunners. They had to come out more after
that which gave us the space to grab a couple more.
Thierry Henry looked very much out of sorts to
me and I was just wondering whether he'd be taken
off when he provided the key assist for Gallas's
goal, then he went on the create the second and score
the third. I should have known better. Let's hope he
gets back to full fitness soon.
It started promisingly with an attack after one minute.
Cesc started it, the ball went wide left to Adebayor
and then across the pitch via a couple of nice passes to
Freddie on the right who was brought down for a free kick
just in from the corner flag. Rosicky floated it cross beyond
the far post where Adebayor (I think) headed it back across
the box and Gilberto tried an overhead kick which went well over.
United got a free kick themselves a couple of minutes later,
and tried a 25 yard shot which Lehmann had to get down low to save
at his left hand post - not too uncomfortable a save though.
Moments later Gallas broke up the left, played a 1-2 with Rosicky and
shot from just inside the box only to see it go a couple of yards short
of the near post.
Freddie had a shot from the right corner of the box which was also
an easy near post save for the stand-in Blades keeper Ian Bennett,
then just before the quarter-hour Bennett made a terrific
one-handed save from Henry's downward header - just getting enough
of the ball to divert it past the far post.
The rest of the first half was the familiar story of Arsenal
dominating but probably not shooting quite freely enough.
At the other end United, with Hulse playing as a lone front man,
had a couple of moments to get excited about - a decent chance
badly fluffed when a striker was allowed a lot
of space just inside the box (but was closed down very quickly,
to be fair, probably making all the difference), and when they got
the ball in the net a few minutes from half-time but the
whistle had already gone for Hulses' high boot in our box.
One noticeable feature of the game, and more and more so
as the second half got underway, was the extent to which our
defenders were getting involved in the attacks. Toure and
Djourou both went on storming runs down the middle - the former's
enbding when he was hacked down and the latter having a couple of
long-range efforts on goal blocked - the second for a corner
which came to Toure again. He burst past a defender and into
the box but blasted his shot into the side-netting.
Then on 52 minutes Freddie won a corner, which Rosicky took from
the right. It was cleared back to the Czech and this time his cross
made it to Freddie on the 6 yard line whose header forced a
stunning point blank save from Bennett - again just getting enough
behind the ball to turn it past the frame of the goal.
Gallas was also getting forward a lot, probably more and more effectively
than our other current left-back options. One time he gave the ball
away upfield and it was good to see him charging back to make the
key tackle when United broke forward. This tacjkle was the start of another Arsenal
attack which ended with a weak shot from Freddie.
Henry went on a good run then played a really poor pass
which was far too weak for Adebayor to get to, and it was at this point
that I started wondering if Henry was really up to it today. A couple
of minutes later, on 65, we were ahead. Freddie and Gilberto combined well
on the right wing, interchanging passes under pressure until finally
Freddie had room to get a cross in. He looped it beyond the far post where
Henry gathered and played a cute chip over a defender and towards the
penalty spot. Cesc stretched for it and just got a touch, not a controlled
one but just enough to drop the ball into the path of Gallas who blasted it
past Bennett into the roof of the net.
United started leaving more space and it was Henry again, and again on the left,
who took advantage to force the second goal 5 minutes later. He got
free down the wing, in to the goal-line, and lashed a cross towards Adebayor at the far post only
for Jagielka to shin it past his own keeper.
The third came with 10 minutes to go. Baptista fed Eboue down the
right and he picked out Henry's run with a perfect cross, landing
on the skipper's head on the 6 yard line for an easy and very
atypical Arsenal goal.
In injury time United nearly grabbed a consolation goal with a header 10 yards
out on their left, from a cross-field cross, but Lehmann was alert (having
done pretty much nothing for ages) and made a fine one-handed save.