Arsenal (0) 2 - 1 (0) FC Thun|
Highbury, Wednesday 14th September 2005
Champs League, group stage, match 1
Lauren Toure Campbell Cole
Ljungberg (Hleb 80) Gilberto Cesc (Bergkamp 72) Pires
Reyes (Quincy 80) van Persie
I heard a lot of moaning Arsenal fans on the way out of the ground.
Apparently, this kind of performance isn't good enough. Well I must
be a bit weird, because for me this is the kind of game I really like.
Drama, frayed nerves, a reffing decision almost costing us the points,
being up against it but winning thanks
to a classy last-gasp finish by one of the greatest Arsenal heroes we'll
ever see. Of course, if
we hadn't won, I might be moaning too. But one has to accept that
sometimes there will be hard games, sometimes there will be
games where we're not quite firing, and on those days you simply
have to be happy with a win.
Thun came to frustrate. 1 up front and 10 behind the ball (when the
1 up front didn't come back too). After a couple of minutes an Arsenal
corner came out to Sol in the D and his goal-bound shot was charged
down. Great to see him back (and Cygan 'rested'). Sol's confidence
grew through the game and we even saw a couple of trademark romps
A few minutes later we lost the ball just over the halfway line and
Toure was forced to challenge on the dge of the centre circle. It
looked like he was the last man and perhaps if a similar foul
had been committed nearer to our goal he'd have been sent off.
Anyway, we defended the free kick well and broke up the other end.
The ball was sprayed from right to left where Pires picked it up,
cut inside, and hit a nice curling shot from the edge of the box
which just missed the far post.
Another couple of minutes later, on 7, van Persie did well to stretch
and control the ball in the D. He got a bit lucky when it came off
his marker but he had to be very alert to take advantage and
he hit a great shot which the keeper had to reach up to parry. It came
out to the left wing where we won a free kick. Pires took it and
again just missed that far post with his shot.
Reyes gave the ball away in the centre circle but chased back well.
Still, it needed Almunia to rush out and claim at the feet of
the striker, a yard or so inside the edge of his area.
We won a free kick about 25 yards out. Pires touched it to the side
and Toure hit a rocket which forced anothger high save under the bar.
The corner went long to Sol beyond the far post but was a touch too
high for him to get above it and he could only glance it on towards
Up the other end a looping ball into our box forced Toure to put a
crucial defensive header out for a corner.
On 16 van Persie battled his way through several defenders and into
the box, but was unlucky to lose it at the last moment before
shooting (well, one assumes he'd have shot eventually,
but one never knows for sure with this Arsenal team).
But it's not like Arsenal were refusing to shoot from further out.
Reyes hit a nice one a minute later which the keeper parried out
to his right. Van Persie had followed it in and did well to
turn the ball square along the goalline and force a corner.
Pires and Cole combined nicely on the left. Cole got the ball
on the overlap and his cross to the far
post was cut out just before reaching Ljungberg's run.
On the half hour some superb battling by Pires (having a much much
better game than of late) won the ball back on the left wing after
he lost it. Again it came to Cole and this time he crossed it to
van Persie in a central position. It wasn't that easy a take but
Robin controlled it well on his chest,
but ended up on his back foot and the combination of that and
the ball taking a while to come down gave a defender the chance to
nip in a clear. The broke up the other end and won a corner
which came out to be met by a shot which an Arsenal defender
Another nice move on the left with Bobby and Ash ended with a Reyes
cross to the 6 yard line which was scrambled clear by a defender
as both van Persie and Freddie slid in to try to convert. These
2 continued to make good runs into the box and look particularly
threatening as Arsenal pressed for the goal. Thun were starting to
be a little more adventurous than in the early exchanges and
thus giving us a bit more space when we attacked.
On 39 Cesc dragged a shot wide after being nicely set up. Then
reyes hit one in from the D which slipped through the keepers hands
and he bent down to save. It trundled goalwards but the keeper
recovered to make the (pretty easy) second save, only for Freddie
to come sliding in and push keeper and ball over the line. It
was disallowed. Fair enough, really.
Then right at the end of the half van Persie went for a high ball
with studs showing. I haven't seen any replays but it happened
right in front of me and I don't have any doubt that Robin's
intent was 100% on controlling the ball. But what he didn't see was
the defender stooping to head the ball, and that head ended up
in contact with the striker's boot, and going off for stitches
and one of those huge comedy bandages. The ref had no hesitation
in showing the straight red card. A bad decision, I reckon, but
one also has to recognise that not many of our players would
have tried what Robin tried unless they were sure it was safe.
He was doing pretty well too, but perhaps has to learn to channel his
enthusiasm a little.
Unless Arsenal appeal, and successfully, against the card (or at least against the
"violent conduct" classification) he'll be out for 3 games. Henry is
also out of at least the first 2 of these. We have to hope that
Wenger will allow Dennis to travel to Amsterdam for the next one,
at least. Otherwise it'll be Reyes plus who knows? Quincy, Lupoli, or
one of Freddie and Pires up front.
Arsenal responded well in the second half and went ahead 6 minutes
after the break. A nice diagonal ball forward (from Cesc?)
to the right enabled Lauren to force a corner. This was played
to the far side of goal where Gilberto rose superbly to place
his header back across goal, across the keeper, and inside the
A minute later, the ball was lofted diagonally forward to the right side
of our box, and Toure got a touch before Ferreira. But it fell kindly for
the Thun man and with back to goal he hooked it over his shoulder.
I've already seen it described as a "cross/shot" and even as a
superb shot after he'd seen Almunia off his line. No chance! I don't
believe Ferreira had any thought other than to try to get the ball
back into a danger area. Almunia wasn't off his line as I'd define it.
He simply had no chance as the freak "shot" looped over him and inches
inside where the crossbar met his left hand post.
Again we responded well, which was excellent to see after the
dispirited response to Boro's 2nd goal on Saturday. But we couldn't
stop them attacking from time to time. Cole made a big block in
our box and the ball went up the other end, ending up with yet
another fancy Reyes dribble into the box where he ran into
a defender and was flattened. Didn't look like the defender had any intention
to play the ball to me, but neither did it look like Reyes had much
intent other than to be fouled. Reyes "had to" go off for treatment
only to come on and straight away run at the keeper as a back-pass
came at him. Jose charged the ball down as the keeper tried to clear,
but the ricochet went more square than towards goal.
A chip into their box got a glancing header off a defender, perhaps
deliberately towards his keeper. Freddie was on hand to nip in and
he managed to get there just before the keeper. But while he
was able to play it past the keeper, it also beat the post.
The Arsenal man collided with the keeper and both went down injured
for a minute. The ref made Freddie leave the pitch after he got up
again, making a bit of a mockery of that rule since he did not
insist on the keeper leaving the field, as Freddie was clearly pointing
out to the ref as he went off.
With 20 minutes to go, Dennis came on for Cesc. It had an immediate impact
and seemed to galvanise everyone. We continued to press and Thun were
forced into all sorts of panicky defending. Then Quincy and Hleb came
on for Reyes and Freddie. Both made some good contributions but it
was a little curious to see Quincy take up a position right on
the left touchline. Still, he got the ball a few times and made some
good runs infield, so perhaps it was right.
A Bergkamp free kick from a few yards outside the box on the left
(following a really cynical-looking foul) was headed inches wide
(not sure by whom). We had a couple more half-chances, blocked shots
and shots hit high and wide.
And then in injury time, up pops Dennis. The ball was lobbed into the box.
His first touch was good to bring it down, but then a defender got in to
block his path. Both players went down, with the ball under the defender.
Dennis reacted like the master he is. It seemed to me that he managed to
push himself to a standing position with one foot and at the same time
use the other foot to tackle the defender. The ball went goal-side of the
defender and suddenly Bergkamp was on his feet with the goal at his mercy.
Still, it took a cool head to slip it past the keeper to his left.
Sparta and Ajax played out a 1-1 draw in the other match. We're top.
Let's just be glad about that for now, and worry about who's going
to play up front against those 2 teams at a later date....
Oh yeah, elsewhere Vieira was sent off in his CL debut for Juve (who won 2-1). And Wayne Rooney was sent off in Man Utd's goalless draw at Villareal.