What are the odds of both United & Arsenal going through?

by Jack Hayes

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Wow. What a week of football. We’ve had it all, late goals, poor refereeing decisions, superb comebacks, brutal honesty from Mick and Fergy complaining about officials.

The premier league title race took yet another twist with Chelsea earning a controversial yet deserved double over United. I’m pleased to report my predictions have already failed miserably, with Arsenal’s scraped victory over Wolves and Chelsea’s win at United showing us why we all love football so much, it’s unpredictable. What would be the fun if every week the best team on paper won? Thankfully, footballs not played on paper and this was displayed in abundance at the Emirates on Wednesday night. The kings of Europe, Barcelona showed Arsenal what beautiful football was in the first fifteen minutes, with the Arsenal players looking on in awe as the Spaniards passed with more frequency than Katie Price on Mastermind. From a neutrals point of you, this game lived up to its billing of the clash of the two best footballing teams in the world. After fifteen minutes I was worried about Arsenal getting embarrassed after wave after wave of Barca attacks, with Manuel Almunia looking unbeatable after great stops from Ibrahimovic, Xavi, Messi and Busquets.

After Arsenal rode the early storm, where Barca should have racked up a three or four goal lead, they started growing in confidence and after a slick passing move Samir Nasri fired narrowly wide after cutting in from the left.

Nightmare struck seconds into the second half as Ibrahimovic ran onto a simple through ball and Manuel showed some of his usual form by racing out and getting no-where near Zlatan who graciously accepted Almunia’s present and simply lifted the ball over the onrushing donkey.  However, this Arsenal team showed tremendous mental toughness and battled back into the game with Fabregas unleashing Clichy down the left flank and his delicious cross was begging to be buried, but the clinical Nikolas Bendtner’s header only found a grateful Victor Valdes from six yards. Wenger was tearing his hair out minutes later when another simple long ball from Xavi put Ibrahimovic in the clear and the Swede made no mistake slamming the ball past Almunia at his near post.

I clearly remembering commenting as the ball hit the net; ‘Game over’ but Arsene and his red and white army had other ideas. After being forced into two first half changes, Le Proff took a huge risk by sending on Theo Walcott for Bacary Sagna, as if any other players went down injured Arsenal would finish the game with ten men. The introduction of the often disappointing Theo breathed new life into the Arsenal team, with Barcelona now firmly on the back foot. The Barca left back Maxwell, who had previously been untroubled by both Arshaving and Eboue was found wanting by a rampant Walcott, who exposed the Brazilians poor defensive awareness by latching onto a through ball and slamming the ball under Valdes, who will be disappointed as the shot dipped under his body. A standing ovation was reserved for the one and only Thierry Daniel Henry, Arsenal’s record goalscorer was given the reception he deserved with all corners of the Emirates on their feet to show the former talisman that he still has a place in our hearts. The return of Thierry was however, overshadowed by the events that followed.

Unbelievably with nine minutes left on the clock, Arsenal had a golden opportunity to level the tie up. Walcott was again involved in the build up and his cross found Nikolas Bendtner who cleverly headed the ball into the path of the onrushing Cesc Fabregas, who as he was about to pull the trigger was adjudjed to have been fouled by Barca captain Carlos Puyol. Replays showed this to be a very harsh decision, and to compound Puyol’s sense of injustice he was sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Up stepped Cesc Fabregas, captain of Arsenal, former student of the Las Masia academy, with the chance to score. He makes no mistake, drilling the ball low and straight with Valdes long gone. The little Spaniard rushed to get the ball and hobbled back to the centre circle. With five minutes left and Barcelona down to ten men, Arsenal could smell blood in the water. None more-so then the ‘one who got away’, who despite breaking his right leg in the challenge with Carlos Puyol, defied all odds and battled on hobbling round the pitch and showing an unbelievable amount of resolve by playing through the pain barrier and battling on. What a man.

The final whistle ended what had been an amazing game, and on the balance of the game a fair result. Barca still have to be considered favourites to go through, but if they do succeed they will have to do so without both first choice centre backs, Carlos Puyol and Gerrard Pique and first leg hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Arsenal have their fair share of injury worries, and will have to manage without; Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin, William Gallas and Robin Van Persie.
If Arsenal can show the same mental strength they did in the first leg, and against Wolves on Saturday, just maybe they might pull off what many predicted to be impossible.

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  • arsenal fun

    good post
    Go Go Go arsenal you can do it

  • Stevie



    I can’t see either going through if I’m honest

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