A night that everyone was waiting for, the biggest night we have ever experienced in the Champions League…it was a tough one to call, were the players going to be overawed by the new experience of a European Champions League Semi-Final? Or were they going to stand up to the task set out and deliver a stunning display backed by the “special-ness” of the feeling at Highbury? A young inexperienced side facing a deceitful and conniving set of players in yellow, who knew all the tricks in the book to break up the rhythm of play for Arsenal, mainly in the middle of the pitch…by tripping up our players unnecessarily…where the ref would keep giving out “last warnings” but hardly any yellows.
Villarreal knew exactly what they needed to do to stop Arsenal play, but Lehmann had nothing to do all night apart from the Riquelme free kick that was smack bang in the middle of the goal. I went to my family’s house to watch the game, who are all diehard Arsenal fans. Even my little nephew, who is 6, and annoying as ever, was wearing his Henry shirt cheering on the gunners like an old pro. The match started well enough, we kept the ball for the opening spell like we always seem to do, and had an Henry goal disallowed….HE WAS LEVEL, if not behind, when the ball was played…a terrible decision! I knew that once it was disallowed it would be a low scoring affair. Hleb was fantastic along with Gilberto who showed why he played every single minute of the world cup when Brazil won with the “Three R’s”…Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.
Gilberto was tight on Riquelme all night and made several brilliant tackles while breaking up play without having to resort to the Spaniards antics of tripping people up! Gilberto was probably our best player on the night, or Hleb who once again was top class on the right wing. If he had that same penetration on the left wing with Reyes then we might have got another goal or two. Henry didn’t get a chance to do much apart from the goal that never was, and that cute little reverse pass that set Hleb up for Toure to finish. It was too congested in the middle of the park, with Ljungberg, Pires and Flamini all being right footed, all 3 never wanted to go on the outside and kept cutting inside. That made our play too narrow and with 7 of there players continuously behind the ball, it was going to be tough to break them down in that way.
To be honest it was an anti-climax to a huge occasion BUT to be fair to the players, they got a goal and should have had two, while maintaining this terrific run of defensive stableness. Yet another clean sheet, in a scrappy affair that was more crucial then even scoring. Even though they should have had a penalty, it just shows justice was served for them continuously falling when they shouldn’t have…never cry wolf as they say…HOWEVER this result now means that if we score out there, which I fancy us to do, then they will need to score three to beat us. They are a tough side, who are well disciplined as said before…and they don’t concede many at all…BUT THEY DON’T SCORE MANY EITHER….they wont score three goals against this side who are now able to protect their lead and haven’t conceded in 9 straight champions league games. The likes of Ronaldo, Robinho, Raul, Zidane, Beckham, Ibrahimovic, Trezeguet, Nedved haven’t scored even one, let alone 3…in one game. If you are an Arsenal supporter, you should be happy that we are in this position, one game away from a memorable final in Theirry’s home town in Paris. A lot can happen in 90mins….but heres the plan:
GO there….play 4-5-1…play Reyes on the left…Hleb on the right…use the width that we have at our disposal and keep tight on Riquelme and CO…break on the counter with our ridiculous pace…be positive rather than negative….and meet Barcelona in Paris….HMMM that sounds nice…but still a lot of hard work to do in a match still only at half time.
It’s a Thursday and we have the SCUM’s game to look forward to now, another historic game in the making…the LAST EVER North London derby at Highbury…Wenger has already told us he will “rotate”…but a full preview on that will be written later. For now, sit back and relax…just don’t get too over-hyped and remember it is only half time!….BUT…ONE CANT HELP BUT TO THINK ABOUT the mouth-watering tie that could await us in Paris, Henry vs Ronaldinho? The two best footballers on the planet playing on different attacking teams, in a stadium fit for the occasion. They could be playing together next season, but for now lets cherish what is, a situation we have never been in before! On the brink of a game of two, FOOTBALLING TEAMS…NO NOT TOTTENHAM…Barcelona and Arsenal are two of the most entertaining teams in the world, a game that will be a delight for a neutral…not for me though…I get agitated and nervous and sweat like a porn star on set…but for the rest of you…enjoy!