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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
Just occasionally, maybe once a year at most, there comes a football match so beautiful, so intense, so frantic and so scoop-your-jaw-up-off-the-floor exciting, that it's all you can do not to fall to the ground and openly weep in thanks that you were able to watch it. This was an epic struggle between two of the finest football teams on the planet and instead of the cagey, tight affair that some had feared, they served up a absolute masterpiece. Arsenal's title challenge lies in tatters, but their fans must take enormous pride from this performance. From the moment the first whistle blew, they flew at their opponents and they never stopped attacking, even towards the end when many of their players were on the brink of exhaustion.

The Gunners enjoyed the best of a scintillating first half, taking the game to their opponents with the swagger and verve that defined them at the start of this season, but they were let down by the abominable finishing of Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese striker couldn't stop scoring back in January, but his aim was so far off that, at half-time, I thought he could have stayed out on the pitch until next January and he still wouldn't have put the ball in the net. One of his early efforts almost cleared the floodlights and another gilt-edged opportunity went begging when he unleashed a shot so shy that, if it was ever invited to a party, would spend the evening in the corner eating cheese nibbles and trying to avoid eye contact. However, while he might have been incapable of scoring with his feet, he was pretty tidy with his left hand from a distance of 6 inches. Confusion between Rio Ferdinand, Edwin van der Sar and Michael Carrick, allowed the hapless striker to steal in and punch home a goal so contentious that it evened out the ill fortune that Arsenal have endured in the Champions League in an instant.

Moments later in this extraordinary match and an Arsenal player's hand was actually noticed, but this time it was William Gallas in his own penalty area. Ronaldo stepped up and duly scored, but was forced to take it again when the referee realised that there were four United players in the penalty area. Credit to the Player of the Year-elect, he held his nerve and scored again, though I'm fairly sure that you're not actually allowed to stop your run up completely.

Arsene Wenger, in no mood to allow Phillipe Senderos to donate another goal to his opponents, dropped the Swiss centre-back all the way out of the 16 man squad. In his place was the young Cameroonian midfielder, Alexander Song and United concentrated their energy on the gap of uncertainty between him and Kolo Toure. The defence looked so vulnerable at times that we were treated to the sight of an impromptu team meeting as Song, Toure, William Gallas and, intriguingly, Aleksandr Hleb, gathered to discuss tactics. Another change to the standard Wenger line-up came in the form of grumpy German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, recalled to the side after an injury to Manuel Almunia. Lehmann has released some fairly bullish and arrogant stories to the German media recently, but fine reaction saves from Wayne Rooney in either half showed that he's still got something to back his attitude up. It makes you wonder whether Arsenal would have collapsed so dramatically had he been in the team.

United, six points clear with four games to go, are on the brink of their tenth title in fifteen years, and they will be worthy champions. Arsenal are lauded for their glorious football, but United are just as bewitching and yet they combine the flair with composure and mental strength. Sir Alex Ferguson has now created four truly great epochs in his 21 years at Old Trafford and this latest pantheon of stars compares to any in the club's history. What a wonderful team, what a magnificent game.

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