Thursday, April 20, 2006

Half way to Ars-elona

Last night Arsenal put a foot in the door towards their first ever European Champions League final by winning a hard fought contest 1-0 against Spanish side Villareal. Barcelona won their first leg on an away goal against AC Milan. We could have a great matchup for the final.

The Gunners deserved the win. They created more chances and took the edge in midfield. They were sharper but by no means won easily. Villareal pressured Arsenal a lot, it was an intense contest which needed concentration and care for the full 90 minutes.

Villareal defended well but their two most important players didn’t make an impact. Striker Diego Forlan was ineffective and looked lost trying to carve out a role by playing deeper. Riquelme managed the midfield for Villareal but failed to dictate the match the same way he did against Inter Milan in the quarterfinals. Both sides gave very little space.

Arsenal have been very strong defensively up to this point but last night they were exposed a few times. It could have easily turned into a costly mistake. Kolo Toure, quickly becoming one of the top 3 defenders in the world, was uncharacteristically erratic. Although it was his redirection to goal which gave Arsenal the win, he could have easily cost them with a rubber-chicken moment flubbing a header followed by tripping himself up. Senderos was often out of position and never really looked comfortable. Eboue and Flamini did the best at the back as very few dangerous crosses made their way across Lehmann’s box but they were not convincing either. That said, it makes 9 strait clean sheets.

It was midfield where Arsenal won the match. The Gunners were sharper and showed characteristic quick passing. Arsenal were often let down by the final ball where Fabregas had been doing so well but worked hard to open space and showed class with deft touches. Villareal were a stiff back four supported very well by Alessio Tacchinardi (yellow carded and misses the next match) in a holding role. In the end, the growing maturity was on display at Highbury as Arsenal forced their tempo on Villareal.

While not a classic, it was a good football match worthy of a semi-final. Jose Mari wasn’t, he dived and feigned injury all night making a mockery of the occasion. Arsenal must play the same tempo at El Madrigal next week. Villareal are not to be underestimated, especially at home; with the goal in hand Arsenal must show the same poise they did against Juventus, if they do, it’s a dream final.

I was interviewed recently for sportolysis.com about England’s World Cup hopes. Check it out. Pratuyush has the noble ambition to interview someone from all 32 countries before the cup begins so if you are interested, mail him (email at bottom of interview) and give him a hand.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Were almost there boys, keep the faith in arsene and we'll be euro champs!!!!!

4/20/2006 8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no mention of the squirrel... i thought he put in a good performance, never seemed to tire - although he spent a good deal of his time in an offside position when really he could have been used to better advantage in midfield

4/20/2006 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL !!

4/20/2006 9:28 AM  
Anonymous lc said...

I think all the first XI did well last night. We couldn't score a other goal because the opposition was defending very well. They had some class players in Riquelme who was a player very difficult to dispossess. But we managed well in forcing him to play the ball back to his defenders.
The only point was the substitution of Hleb that broke completely our link up system (defense/attack), that Hleb was doing very well with Eboue. So was with Flamini and Freddy; which allowed Villarreal to dominate a bit the game in the last ten mins and the entry of Berkamp and RVP didn't bring match; as we were expecting.

4/20/2006 10:55 AM  
Blogger Libero said...

if you think that toure is one of the best three defenders in the world then name the only two which are better.

4/20/2006 11:54 AM  
Blogger Martí Perarnau said...

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4/20/2006 12:09 PM  
Blogger Football Commentator said...


Better than Toure?

Well, probably top 2 in the world are Alessandro Nesta of AC Milan and John Terry.

4/20/2006 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Boza said...

I thought the squirrel did well to get away without Gilberto scything him down from behind.

Well done the Gunners. Wouldn't put my mortgage on them for the second leg, though...

4/20/2006 10:18 PM  
Blogger Nirav said...

Hey... Am an Arsenal fan for about 8 years now, and it has been really great to witness their march on in Europe this year (though their league performance has been below par)

And in my opinion its been the young legs of Hleb and Fabregas which has made the difference this season. Hope they win it :)

4/21/2006 6:54 AM  

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