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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
Villarreal 1-1 Arsenal

Senna, 10 Adebayor, 66

If it is true that whatever fails to kill you makes you stronger, then soon Arsenal will be invincible. After the painful grind of a season ruined by injuries and internal dispute, the Gunners are growing as a team, and as men. To come back from Spain with the upper hand after being comprehensively outplayed for much of the first half speaks volumes about the progress of Arsene Wenger's young side. Though they were perhaps lucky to only concede the single goal, there was nothing fortuitous about their spirited comeback.

At half-time you could have been forgiven for thinking that Marcus Senna's blistering early strike was good enough to win the tie on its own, but by the final whistle it wasn't even the best goal of the game. Emmanuel Adebayor eclipsed it by taking Cesc Fabregas' perfectly weighted ball and slamming it into the net with an impetuous and entirely unexpected overhead kick. Arsenal's last three goals have all been created by the Spaniard and gleefully finished by Adebayor.

Villarreal were excellent, moving the ball about quickly and crisply through the middle. The defensive pairing of Alexandre Song and Denilson, which had looked impenetrable on Saturday, struggled to keep up. Joan Capdevila was so mobile that he seemed to be playing at both left-back and left-wing and Cani's passing was sublime until injury forced his withdrawal. With better finishing, they could have settled this tie before the break.

If injury had inconvenienced Villarreal, it threatened to wreck Arsenal's night completely. First Manuel Almunia hobbled off with a knock to his ankle and then William Gallas suffered medial ligament damage that could end his season. Johan Djourou was obviously a trustworthy replacement for the former Arsenal captain, but what of Lukasz Fabianski? The Polish stopper seemed a little weedy last season, but Wenger has obviously been feeding him steaks and Guinness for the past year. The youngster has filled out dramatically, his increased physical presence complimenting his already well-developed shot-stopping abilities. A double save just moments after his introduction proved that Wenger has staked his faith wisely once again.

On a night of outstanding attacking football, there was just one sour note. Cesc Fabregas, booked in the first half for prematurely launching a free-kick at goal, was the target for a number of missiles from the Spanish fans as he prepared to take a set-piece. It followed a challenge on Capdevila that went unpunished despite the best efforts of the Villarreal players. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it a bookable offence to wave an imaginary card at a referee in an effort to influence his decision? If it is, then never mind Fabregas, at least five members of the Spanish side should have been cautioned. There's no question of whether or not the referee saw it, he had to see it, they were doing it with the specific intention of him seeing it. UEFA must move quickly to stamp this horrible trend out of the game.

After coming through the first 90 minutes with a slight advantage, Arsenal will feel confident that they can finish the tie at The Emirates. Mind you, after coming through this game, they will probably feel confident of going all the way. Super-outsiders was how Wenger described his team earlier this week. Not any more, they're not.

WEAK DEFENCE - What on earth did Arsene Wenger say before the game? Given Arsenal's inability to get going here, I can only imagine that he sang them a lullaby. Their inability to react to an early corner should have cost them dearly, but somehow Arsenal's sleepy defenders got away with it.

HITMAN - It's three goals from two games for Emmanuel Adebayor, a surprisingly high rate, given that the Togolese striker barely did anything for the first hour of this game. Mind you, if he keeps scoring goals like this one, who cares what he does for the rest of the match?

TANTRUM - Villarreal's manager Manuel Pellegrini was not amused by this result. It thought it was an unfair result in the end," he whined "We created four very clear chances in the first half and I don't think Arsenal created any chances apart from the goal in 90 minutes." What game was he watching?

PUNTER'S RANT - This was always going to be a tight affair, so there's very little for any punter to rant about, unless you're really, really bitter about Cesc Fabregas' free-kick being disallowed. A draw is an excellent result for Arsenal.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Kolo Toure is no leader and he's not tall enough to dominate a back-line, but you can never, ever question his desire. The Arsenal defender will give you everything and then borrow some more from somewhere at extortionate and reckless rates of interest, just so that he has even more to give. You'd want him in your team, wouldn't you?

MATCH STATS -

Crowd - 25,000
Yellow Cards - Song, Adebayor, Fabregas, Nasri (Arsenal)
Red Cards - None
Villarreal -
Diego Lopez (rating 7), Diego Godin 7, Gonzalo 7, Joan Capdevila 8, Angel Lopez 7, Sebastien Egueren 7, Marcos Senna 7, Ariel Ibagaz 6 (Guillermo Franco 6, 78th), Cani 7 (Mattias Fernandez 6, 45th), Joseba Llorente 7 (Robert Pires 7, 70th), Guiseppe Rossi 6
Arsenal -
Manuel Almunia 6 (Lukasz Fabianski 7, 27th), Bacary Sagna 7, Gael Clichy 7, William Gallas 7 (Johan Djourou 7, 42nd), Kolo Toure 8, Denilson 6, Alex Song 6, Cesc Fabregas 7, Samir Nasri 7, Theo Walcott 6 (Emmanuel Eboue 6, 78th), Emmanuel Adebayor 7
 
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