Ajax (0) 0 - 0 (0) Arsenal|
Amsterdam Arena, Wednesday 26th February 2003
UEFA Champs League, stage 2 match 4
Before the game started we'd have been very disappointed with this
draw, but that was when we were expecting a home win for Valencia.
Roma's 3-0 at the Mestalla means that both these teams can go through
with a game to spare if they both win in the next game. A win for Arsenal
at home to Roma wouldn't guarantee it for us in itself though, because
if Valencia beat Ajax then both those teams could still catch us. See
Note that Ajax are above Arsenal on head-to-head results because of the away goal they scored at Highbury, and will finish above us if the 2 clubs finish level on points at the end of the group.
Arsenal started with the one expected change from last week's
team: Martin Keown for Pascal Cygan.
For the first half, Ajax played more defensively than last
week, especially in the first 15 minutes or so. Good work from Wiltord
set Henry up after just 3 minutes, and the keeper made a good save
from the rising near post shot.
On 9 mins Gilberto hit a long-range shot high and wide after Pires did brilliantly
to hold onto the ball when he ran into trouble, and then the chance up for
the Brasilian. Straight up the other end and Keown did well to poke a ball
over the top through for Seaman when he looked to have been beaten.
Ajax started to come forward a bit more, giving us a few more chances to
attack into space instead of at a wall of red and white shirts. Wiltord's
low shot on the break skidded a yard wide, then Chivu made a crucial
interception when Pires' ball from the right wing looked like gettign through
to Henry in the box.
Zlatan had a half chance on 25 when his hooked shot from the edge of the box
took a deflection and looped wide. Then Zlatan beat Wiltord for pace onto a
through ball and passed wide to their right wing, but Seaman claimed the cross
back in towards Zlatan easily. Up the other end and Henry fed Cole with back to
goal on the edge of the box. Ashley looked to have a decent claim for a free kick
in a very dangerous position when the ball was taken from him from behind, but
play was waved on.
Vieira came up with a massive tackle just the wrong side of the centre circle,
and we broke through Pires who fed Bergkamp on the right. But it was hard to tell
if Dennis shot or crossed as it went tamely wide of the far post.
On 33 Wiltord put in a nice low ball to the near post but the keeper did well to
get to it before Vieira could slide in. Then on 37 Pires
fouled De Jong on the edge of our box on the left. Probably a good thing he
did as Cole had been left rather exposed over there. Understandable perhaps
because Cole had been having a storming game both at both ends of the pitch.
And it was Cole that saved
the day with a great header off the goal-line from Chivu's free-kick. We got a
bit lucky from the resulting corner when it fell for Campbell who cleared from
6 yards out.
Cole was unlucky to get booked on 40 minutes for a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge,
he might have had an arm up but it hardly deserved a card.
The last action of the first half, a minutes into injury time, was also the best.
Henry did a party-trick turn on the edge of our box to get past 2 defenders.
From a narrow angle on the left he probably shoudl have had a go at goal but instead
he tried to find Wiltord. But Sylvain hadn't been busting a gut to get close
to goal, and Henry's pass was a bit casual and easily cut out.
Ajax started the second half well, with Campbell and Lauren both being called upon
to make crucial clearances in the first 3 minutes.
Ajax came up with their best move so far on 51 mins when Zlatan ended up on
the end of a cut-back from the goal-line on our left, but Lauren got back to
get a brilliant foot in and deflect the (virtually unmissable) chance over the bar.
Henry won a free-kick 30 yards out and took it. It looked to be going just over
but the keeper got a finger on it to make sure, and was rewarded with a goal-kick.
Arsenal were looking a bit shaken by the increased energy level from the home side.
It was nice to see Vieira doing some skippering stuff. He was leading by example of
course, but also gave an earful to Wiltord and Lauren. This was after both had been
giving the ball away too easily, Laurem in particular trying to play the ball out
of defence unnecessarily, when surrounded by Ajax players, which led to a
dangerous attack from them.
Chivu took a free kick which went high and wide. Then Pires won one on the right
at the other end. Bergkamp curled it forward and it came through over a crowd to
Vieira on the far side of the 6 yard box. He did well to direct it goalwards,
presumably hgaving been surprised that it got to him, but the keeper got down well.
Following poor Arsenal play, Zlatan was gifted with possession inside our half on their
right. He came forward and spotted van der Meyde's run in acres of space on their
left before sliding the ball through for him. It shoudl have been the clearest
chance of the game as he was one-on-one, but he miscontrolled it with his
good right foot and we cleared.
Vieira picked up a yellow card for a perfectly good tackle on the left wing.
Very irritating reffing as he was unsighted, and the linesman had only given
Henry went on another great run with 12 minutes to go but Bergkamp and Pires got in
a tangle and couldn't get through the crowded box.
10 minutes to go and Jeffers and Parlour came on for Dennis and Wiltord.
The last decent chance came with a couple of minutes to go when Henry's head
glanced wide left for Gio (just on for Pires). He stretched well to get a first-time
cross in but it was just too far forward for Jeffers to get onto.