Posted by hiphopmama on August 26, 2009
Arsenal 3-1 Celtic (5-1 aggregate)
1-0 Eduardo (pen), 28′
2-0 Eboue, 53′
3-0 Arshavin, 74′
3-1 Donati, 90′
There was never really any doubt as to what the result of this one would be, but with Fabregas nursing a gimpy hammy and considerations for the Manchester United clash this weekend, Celtic got to take their best shot. Or at least they did until my favorite name in officialdom – Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez – saw fit to award a penalty to when Eduardo went down in the face of zero contact from Celtic keeper Artur Boruc. In live action, I thought it was an iffy decision, and the replay showed the keeper pulled away from the challenge at the last minute and probably failed to even touch the Arsenal player. But, as always, these things are hard to call, and from his angle Gonzalez thought he brought him down. So Eduardo stepped up, stroked the penalty home, and the outcome was all but guaranteed.
The final two goals were icing, and both were scored in fine team fashion. Eboue was the beneficiary of the first, when a Bendtner backheel found Diaby on the left wing to set up a lovely cross and finish. Twenty minutes later, substitute Andrei Arshavin got his first Champions League goal for Arsenal when he cleverly shepherded a ball in from Jack Wilshere, turned around the defender, and slotted it past the goalkeeper. Massimo Donati eventually netted Celtic’s consolation goal on a well-taken volley, but the failure to keep a clean sheet won’t trouble the Gunners much as they progress to the group stage of the UCL.
I can honestly say I feel slightly bad for Celtic fans, whose team was robbed of any real chance in this one by the early, and clearly inaccurate, penalty call. But the tie wasn’t lost on this one call alone, and if Arsenal hadn’t scored on the penalty in the 28th minute, they would certainly have done so at some later point because they were pouring on the pressure and Celtic rarely looked likely to score. Even Tony Mowbray admitted as much, stating, “You cannot deny that over two legs, Arsenal had more quality and deserved to go through.” As for Donati’s recommendation that UEFA hand down a two-match ban to Eduardo for diving, I think his hopes for that one are about as low as Celtic’s always were for getting past Arsenal in this one. Did he go down easily? Yep. Way too easily? Probably. But for all the egregious flopping that goes on all the time, I just don’t see it happening. Wenger made a good point here as well, noting that lingering psychological damage after his horrific injury last year may have contributed to his diving (in the innocent way) to avoid contact with Boruc. “I never asked in my life any guy to dive to win a penalty, but sometimes the players go down because there is no other way to escape the tackling of the keeper, sometimes they dive. I do not want a penalty which is not a penalty, but I do not go as far as to say Eduardo dived.” Even with all that, I’ll admit it was probably a dive, but whichever way it was called, the result was always going to be the same. And besides, it’s Eduardo, about whom I’ve never heard any grumblings of cheating before.
So that’s that, Arsenal are through, and the draw for the group stage is tomorrow. What are the chances the English teams are kept on such separate paths again this year?
Posted in soccer | Tagged: andrei arshavin, arsenal, arsene wenger, celtic, champions league, diaby, eboue, eduardo, fabregas, jack wilshere, massimo donati, nicklas bendtner, referees, tony mowbray | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on August 15, 2009
Everton 1-6 Arsenal
0-1 Denilson, 26′
0-2 Vermaelen, 37′
0-3 Gallas, 41′
0-4 Fabregas, 48′
0-5 Fabregas, 70′
0-6 Eduardo, 89′
1-6 Saha, 90′
So yeah, it’s not really my birthday, not even close, actually. But it’s as good as, with the Premier League starting back up today and finally bringing to an end the mortifying period when European soccer, basketball, and American football are all in their off-seasons. Aside from the occasional MLS broadcast, only baseball is still in action, which is a non-entity in my book anyway, even with the Dodgers leading their division. Praise be unto the lord almighty that they don’t much believe in the concept of “rest” for their footballers in Europe, because their abbreviated off-season has mercifully sprung me from the depths of sporting boredom.
The new season was perfectly inaugurated by my Gunners, who put a hurting on Everton in their season opener. Aside perhaps from Liverpool-Tottenham, Arsenal easily had the toughest fixture of the Big Four sides in their trip to Goodison Park. Plenty had been made of the “losses” of Adebayor and Toure, as well as the limited acquisitions the team made in the transfer market, plus all the usual guff about the team’s (excessive) youth and lack of killer instinct. Yet while Chelsea needed all of extra time to pull out a victory against Hull City, Arsenal made quick and easy work of David Moyes’ side, netting three goals per half, including a brace from captain Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard helped set up the first goal as well, laying it off nicely for Denilson to send one wailing goalward from just outside the box. Newcomer Thomas Vermaelen headed home the second off a Robin Van Persie free kick, and Gallas scored on another header shortly thereafter. Fabregas got his first on a classic Arsenal counterattack to start the second half, tucking it under Everton keeper Tim Howard, then knocked in his second on a quick strike from distance. Eduardo put the capper on it in the dying minutes, slotting home the rebound off a shot Arshavin never should have been allowed to get off. Saha did eventually get Everton their consolation goal in extra time, but it did little to dampen the euphoria of the 6-1 thrashing.
It was all done in typical Arsenal fashion, too, making it that much sweeter to watch this group of youngsters pull off what Wenger always believed they could. The question now will be whether or not they can replicate this kind of performance, but for now I’m not going to let pragmatism cloud this victory. I was a bit surprised to see them come out in the formation they did. The 4-3-3 itself wasn’t really a shock, but Bendtner playing out wide with Arshavin in the center of the front line was not what I expected to see. Wenger clearly knows more than me, though, if you didn’t already know that, because Bendtner played beautifully on the wing and Arshavin gliding around in the middle. The Dane used his size to control the ball well and used his skill to set up his teammates in and around the box. It was his good work on the flank that helped pave the way for Denilson’s opening goal. So while unexpected, his performance out wide was excellent, and Arshavin can obviously play anywhere on the field he likes. With Eduardo still working his way back to full fitness and Rosicky’s potential return on the horizon (I can dream, right?), Arsenal’s prospects for the season are exciting if they can hold their mettle in the middle of the park. Let’s all pray Alexandre Song keeps eating his Wheaties and the center-backs stay fit, so we can ignore the team’s thinness at those spots and revel in the creative potential of the squad. Today, at least, we look like we can win it all.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: alex song, andrei arshavin, arsenal, arsene wenger, david moyes, denilson, eduardo, epl, everton, fabregas, louis saha, nicklas bendtner, robin van persie, rosicky, tim howard | 1 Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009
Manchester United 2-0 Inter (Agg: 2-0)
- 1-0 Vidic, 4′
- 2-0 Ronaldo, 49′
Roma 1-0 Arsenal, Shoot-out 6-7 (Agg: 1-1)
England has the strongest league in the world. Hands down. I was hesitant to admit it for a while, especially because La Liga is my favorite to watch. But after watching Champions League action in conjunction with the individual leagues, it is essentially impossible to argue otherwise. In the two preceding years, three of the final four teams were from England (Man Utd, Chelsea, and Liverpool in both cases), and last year was an all-England final. Now, as we head into the quarterfinals, all four English teams have advanced, at the expense of Italy’s three representatives in the round of 16. Spain still has two teams alive in the competition, but only one of them – Barcelona – stands any real chance of making it all the way.
Defending champs Manchester Utd took out Italy’s last great hope and their Special coach (wonder if he knows what the connotations of that term are). While I had finally settled on Inter as the lesser of these two evils, I was not at all unhappy to see Mourinho get humbled like that. I wish it could have been at the hands of someone other than Fergie and ManYoo, but watching Inter bomb out of the Champions League with the coach they brought in specifically to get them better results in Europe was still sweet. Man Utd opened each half with a goal, which was just enough to finish off Inter. Sir Alex’s boys weren’t particularly impressive today, but they did what they had to do to beat Special Sauce and Co. Both goals came off beautifully delivered passes, the first a corner taken by Giggs and the second a chipped pass from Rooney. Ibrahimovic finally decided to show up and made some key contributions, but neither he nor Adriano could break all the way through the ManYoo defense. And the quintuple is still alive.
In the final England-Italy match-up, Arsenal carried a 1-0 home victory into Rome but watched that margin disappear on an early goal by Juan, who scored the game’s only goal in his brief return from injury Not long after leveling for Roma, he had to leave with a re-aggravated thigh injury, further depleting the Roman squad. Arsenal seemed the likelier of the two sides to score for most of the game, but they never found their way onto the scoreboard. The best chance they had came when Bendtner deflected the ball to start a lightning quick counterattack. Eboue dribbled up the right side and should have easily been able to pick out Bendtner in the middle for a straightforward tap home, but his disappointing season continued with a horrible ball that went long and ruined any chance Arsenal had of scoring for the moment. In the end it went to penalties, and Arsenal started poorly, with Eduardo’s weak shot blocked by Doni. Vucinic helped the Gunners even it up by getting a little too cute and sending one straight at Almunia with not much pace. Finally, after eight takes from either side, Tonetto stepped up and skied it over the bar, ending Roma’s hopes of any silverware this year.
We now have to wait till the 20th to find out the match-ups for the quarterfinals, which will be drawn from the following teams:
- Bayern Munich
- Manchester United
The round of 16 draw was a tad suspicious, with the Italian teams all matched up with English opposition, so the conspiracy theorists among us would probably say the broadcasters got their wish with all four English teams through. Whatever the case, I hope we get a more equitable shakedown for the quarters, preferably keeping Arsenal and Chelsea on opposite sides, since those are the last of my teams standing. Realistically, though, no one is touching either Man Utd or Barcelona, and barring an unfortunate draw, they should be the favorites to make the finals. Everyone else is a long shot at this point.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: adriano, almunia, arsenal, barcelona, bayern munich, champions league, chelsea, cristiano ronaldo, doni, eboue, eduardo, epl, ibrahimovic, inter, jose mourinho, juan, liverpool, manchester united, nicklas bendtner, porto, primera liga, roma, ryan giggs, scores, serie a, sir alex ferguson, tonetto, vidic, villarreal, vucinic, wayne rooney | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 15, 2008
- 0-1 Gael Clichy (og), 70′
- 0-2 Gabriel Agbonlahor, 80′
How many times can we witness this same exact story line? A struggling Arsenal team pulls off a big win against a quality opponent, the youngsters throw in an impressive victory in Carling Cup play, and this renewed confidence and spirit is dashed with a horrible showing against a team they should beat. In this case, the opponent was one of some quality – Aston Villa were sitting at fifth in the table and had had a very good start to the season. They had, however, coming off disappointing losses to Newcastle and, last week, Middlesbrough in a game that, had it been won, would have moved them into a coveted top four position. Arsenal were, as always, using a depleted line-up, with Van Persie out due to suspension and Adebayor only just brought back on the bench after coming back from injury. They did have Sagna back as well as Gallas, both of whom had missed time recently.
None of that accounted for the result, though. For as good as they looked against Man Utd last week, they looked ragged and sloppy today. Villa was clearly the stronger of the two teams in the first half, despite missing a poorly taken penalty, which was saved by Almunia and kicked out by a charging Gallas. Ashley Young especially stormed forward in the early going, creating and receiving numerous opportunities and only being held off by some excellent goalkeeping by Almunia. Agbonlahor wasn’t much of a factor in the first half, but he made up for it in the second half, making piercing runs and killing Arsenal with his speed. He was partially responsible for the first goal, forcing Clichy to make the play that resulted in an own goal. Ten minutes later, he scored one for real, securing a long ball around Gallas and striking it past Almunia to secure three points.
Arsenal easily dominated possession, nearing 70%, but they were much less threatening than Villa and created fewer chances. Bendtner was essentially invisible playing up front by himself. Walcott gave his defenders some trouble but it never amounted to anything. Nasri wasn’t nearly as dangerous as he has been in recent weeks. And Fabregas continued his run of indifferent form. At one point in the second half, a long ball over the top that was mishandled by Bendtner practically screamed out for Adebayor, and sure enough, a few minutes later he was subbed in for Diaby. Vela was also brought on for Bendtner, and that two man combination seemed to work much better although to similar (no) effect. The biggest blow, aside from the loss itself, was losing Sagna to a serious looking injury in the build-up to the first goal. He had only recently come back from another injury, and Wenger said in his post-match press conference that he will miss a few weeks with this new ankle injury.
It’s almost impossible to figure out what to make of this Arsenal team. Two steps forward one step back would almost be a blessing at this point, as every victory – moral or actual – is countered with at least one disappointment. The team seems to need some moderately drastic shaking up – tinkering with the established formula just isn’t enough now. I can’t pretend to know as much as Wenger, but I would hope that picking someone up in the winter transfer window wouldn’t be ruled out. Then again, with Eduardo potentially returning in a few weeks and Rosicky making his return around the new year, they might get the equivalent of some new players without having to spend the money. Whatever the case, the current tack isn’t working, no matter how many isolated bright spots it produces. Beating Manchester United is all well and good, but it’s worthless if you can’t replicate that performance against teams like Fulham, Hull, and Stoke. Aston Villa is no pushover, but they should at least elicit a more inspired effort than what the Gunners gave today.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: adebayor, agbonlahor, almunia, arsenal, arsene wenger, ashley young, aston villa, clichy, eduardo, epl, fabregas, rosicky, sagna, scores, theo walcott | Leave a Comment »