Porto 2-1 Arsenal… Not a good welcome back to the Champions League, right?

Wow. That was eventful, wasn’t it? It was a cracking match, but we’ve now got a 2-1 deficit to overhaul during the second leg. But we’re definitely not out of it, far from it.

The atmosphere at the Estadio do Dragao was electric, as usual, even without a full-capacity crowd, and it was always going to be a hard task for us to win the game, especially with a number of 1st team regulars out with injury. The much-maligned Almunia was sidelined with a finger injury, meaning Fabianski was drafted in as his replacement. Gallas was also missing, Sol Campbell playing in his stead. Our midfield general, Alex Song was also missing, along with Arshavin & Eduardo. None of those injuries are long-term, so we should have them back over the next few games. Which meant Bendtner was able to make yet another start, after recovering from his groin injury. The starting XI looked like this:

Fabianski

Sagna – Campbell – Vermaelen – Clichy

Denilson – Diaby

Rosicky – Cesc - Nasri

Bendtner

The match started in frenetic fashion, with Porto having 2 quick chances, both due to errors on our path. A sloppy Denilson pass put Porto’s Falcao through, but he was denied by a last-ditch challenge by Sol Campbell right in the box- a brilliant tackle. But that was the nature of the game- our errors led to Porto chances, and inevitably their goals, both of them comical. For the first, Silvestre Valera skipped past Gael Clichy on the left way to easily to deliver a cross, or was it a shot? Either way, it went straight to Fabianski for an ‘easy’ catch, but for some reason, he fumbled it in! He seemed wrong-footed, but why, I do not know. The only person his fumbling would have pleased in the Arsenal camp would be Almunia, who has been criticised of costly fumbles of late- he’s safe in the knowledge that his deputy will not be displacing him anytime soon.

So 11 minutes in, and we were already behind! But we had started to get into the game, and it was not a surprise that we were level pretty soon- but the identity of the scorer was definitely a surprise! We had a corner on the right, Vermaelen flicking the ball, finding Rosicky on the far right who simply headed it back across to an unmarked Sol Campbell who headed it in! It was Sol Campbell’s 2nd goal in his last 2 Champions League games, the last coming in that Champions League final in 2006. An omen, maybe?! (minus the final result, ofcourse!) But the result on the day suggests that we need to do more before contemplating the possibility of reaching the final.

We were well on top after Sol’s equaliser, with Rosicky and Bendtner both testing Helton. But we went into the break on level terms, the half being memorable for the constant fouling meted out to Cesc who clearly wasn’t happy with a number of the Porto players when the whistle blew. The referee ought to have booked a number of the Porto players, or at least warned them, but he was far too lenient, and it was more of the same in the second half!

We started the second half much brightly than we did the first, and we had the ball in dangerous positions, even though we didn’t test the Porto ‘keeper, Helton, that much. But it did look like the next goal was going to be at his end, which could only mean that Porto would go on and score! And score they did, in highly contentious circumstances, about 5-6 minutes into the second half!

Right before the goal, Rosicky had a pretty decent shout for a penalty, but the referee was having none of it. Looking at the replays, I personally do not think it was a penalty, but almost everyone else seemed to think it was, including a few neutrals. One of the Porto players had over-run the ball a bit, and Sol had the simple task of shepherding the ball to Fabianski. But he accidentally touched the ball to Fabianski, at almost the last instant. Fabianski had already committed to picking up the ball and wasn’t alert to the fact that it had become a back-pass, so he picked up the ball! Porto had an indirect free-kick inside the box. Fair enough, even though Arsene disputed this in the post-match interview. The next passage of play was the highly controversial part, which also proved to be the deciding factor of the game.

When the referee blew for a free-kick, the ball was with Fabianski, with Sol the only other Arsenal player around. Two Porto players were quick to get in the box to take advantage. The referee demanded the ball from Fabianski, who arguably had no choice but to give the ball back. But the problem was that he was nowhere near his goal and before he had the chance to get near, the free-kick had been taken and the ball was past him and into the net in a flash. The referee allowed the goal to stand! Arsene was LIVID and even had a bit of a long discussion with the referee near the touchline. He was probably trying to get the referee to explain how on earth he allowed the Porto players to take the free-kick so quickly, especially as it didn’t look as if the referee was ready for it! He had turned his back on play to speak to Sol, who was directly behind him, when the free-kick was taken. Add that to the fact that the referee had gone out of his way to demand the ball, and the Boss was justifiably furious! One definitely cannot blame the Porto players, as they were well in their right to take the free-kick quickly and one would expect us to do the same if we were in a similar position. But the referee ought to take the blame for it, as he didn’t hand the situation well.

Here’s Arsene’s take on it:

What can you do? The backpass was accidental. Where do you see a defender kick the ball back with his toe? It was completely accidental. The ball hit Sol, it was not on purpose and it has to be intentional to be a free-kick. It is difficult to understand how the referee can interpret that or not see that. Then, on an indirect free-kick, if you allow the team to play quickly, just five metres from the goal, how can the team defend that? It is better than a penalty. It was unbelievable that he allowed Porto to play straight away and push the ball into the net.
I have never seen that and I have been in the game a long time. It is completely inappropriate that he allows that in such a situation. When the referee gives the free-kick he has to allow us a chance to defend it, otherwise it is better to give a goal straight away.

Either way, the goal was given and we found ourselves 2-1 down, and we weren’t able to improve on the score-line, even though the match was very much end to end. The match was played at a high tempo and it was hard to keep up with it at times!

We had a few more chances to get another goal, but so did Porto and to be honest, any time they had the ball anywhere near our box towards the end of the game, I was pretty worried we would concede, so I was happy to take a 2-1 scoreline! Anything worse and we surely would have been out of the tie?

We did made use of our substitutions, with Theo coming on for Rosicky, Vela for Bendtner, and Eboue for Nasri, but none of them were able to make a telling impact. Eboue did have a brilliant drive into the box creating a chance, but it didn’t come to anything.

There weren’t really any stand-out performances, although Sol was generally impressive and showed he’s more than capable to deputise for either of the centre-halfs. Fabregas didn’t really have that much of an impact on the game, but then, he was being tackled every other minute. Clichy was a bit worrying defensively, but I just feel as if he needs more games to get back to his best; we all know, and I’m sure he does too, that he much better than this. Fabianski did make a couple of decent saves, but his 2 errors have pretty much overshadowed them, as you would expect, considering we lost the match as a result.

A disappointing result, but on reflection, it is hardly a disastrous one, given the circumstances. We do have the crucial away goal, and a 1-0 win at the Emirates on the return leg would more than be enough but if we were to concede, we would have to win by 2 clear goals. We won 4-0 the last time Porto visited us at the Emirates, and there is no reason why we can’t repeat the same next time round. We should hopefully have the likes of Alex Song and Arshavin back by then, Bendtner, Clichy and Theo should have had a few more games under their belts, but we have to cut out on the silly errors if we want to have any chance of getting through to the next stage.

No point dwelling on this result though, we’ve got Sunderland at the Emirates on Saturday for the start of our unbeaten Premier League run! :)

  • http://arsenalandtherandomthoughtsofmylife.blogspot.com/ Debs

    It’s a bit of a long one, and I didn’t cover a lot of the chances- apologies! :)

  • Nick

    Great post. Got to feel sorry for Fabianski this morning, just imagine how he is feeling today!! Two shocking errors, as you say, overshadowing a few great saves.

    Sol was brilliant, great to see him back at the top level. Thought Diaby played very well, skillful on the ball, always trying to move forward, defensively solid. Great to see him impressing.

    2nd Leg will be a tough task but they boys will pull through. 2006 run all over again surely, bar the result in the final!!

  • dampatti

    Ye idiots who say that the second goal should stand should never again watch or comment on football, as i would of thought football fans should know the rules of the game. Firstly the ref got involved in the attack bye taking the ball from NOTSOFab there for the referee has to restart the game this can only be done so with the blowing of a whistle which to me only happend when the ball hit the net. Secondly if the ref is correct then every player who gets uppended in the box could get up straight away and take a quick penalty with no keeper in is this allowable? Ans no… to me the REF punished arsenal twice for one mistake double jeopardy! also it wasnt a pass back. This ref should never again be allowed Ref it is the second time he broke my heart by not allowing us the chance to play france in a shoot out to maybe qualify for South Africa.

  • goonerman

    i totally agree with you dampatti! i mean fabianski was holding the ball waiting for the team to get back and set up a defence and then the idiotic referee demands the ball from fabianksi and hands it straight to the porto player! after than sol campbell cleary points out after the game that the ref was blocking him from stopping the quick free kick happening!! so the only way the goal could of been stopped is if fabianski refused to give the ball to the ref or he knocked the ball from the refs hand in which he would of been punished in botch situations! i just think surely it was a huge mistake from that muppet of a ref! HE SHOULD OF HELD THE BALL and waited for the team to get back! i just hope the stupid loss makes the team more hungry to stuff them at home!

  • Jay

    Goalkeeping is our number one problem at Arsenal! Forget the strikers and mids!! Please Wenger just buy a decent goalkeeper!!

  • Nick (the other Nick)

    That Ref is garbage. He was garbage in the France v Ireland game and he’s still garbage. Cesc was hacked at all night and far too many tackles were left unpunished. He was blocking Sol during the free kick.

    Clichy was terrible (again). He he got turned and allowed the development of the first goal (with the Fabianski assist) I’ll never know.

    Cesc commented after the game saying we were guilty of schoolboy defending. Comments like that make me more and more convinced he’s gonna leave this summer.

    Theo played well for the limited time he was on the pitch. Created some good opportunities.

    Diaby did nothing but hold the ball too long. He had 3 definite shots that he should’ve taken and he eneded up losing the ball.

    It’s encouraging to me that we did get the away goal. Thank you Sol! Since our midfield and striker can’t score. The two goals we conceeded were garbage and IMO just lucky for Porto. They threatened a lot but still didn’t score a goal in the run of play.

    We will take them down at the Emirates on March 9th!

  • Marc Callan

    I have to say, destiny bites you in the ass. I remember when I gave out stink regarding this ref after the Irish match and people here told me to get over it, I know I was giving out about the ref and Henry but alas he come back to haunt me.

    Honestly, he is probably the worst referee I have seen in a long time except for the 3 yellow card to the same player ref (Graham Poll was it, not sure). I’m gutted for us but at least we got an away goal and we will definitely score at home. I just I am in a catch 22 situation, feel sorry for Arsenal but at the same time, this ref should have been nipped in the bud after his amazing decisions after the France match.

  • amar

    All you Arsene haters out there RELAX!! this man has done great things on the pitch early on bringing 12 trophies i believe and most recently he has overseen the transition to a new World Class Stadium to allow Arsenal to build into being one of the World’s biggest power houses. oh and while doing so we have competed in the toughest league in the world, made the final of the CL and built a side that is capable of developing (with some minor changes) into a dominant force that will be expected to win the League, FA Cup, League Cup, CL.

    We dont have Utd’s debt hanging over us or American bosses that are as dodgy as they come, we dont have a Russian Oil Tycoon messing with things he doesnt know about and thank the lord we dont have a Mexican waiter pulling the strings.

    Fact is we have a tricky home fixture that we only need to win 1-0 and we progress. We have a good run home in the EPL and whilst winning it is a long shot Utd and Chelsea will drop points we just have to make sure we dont.

  • Dan

    The keeper must keep the ball (or get rid of it quickly by throwing it out) until ready for the free-kick, no matter who asks for it. The defenders must rush to defend the free-kick.

    This is basic stuff you learn at around the age of 6.

    You could clearly see that the keeper was out of his depth, and now his defensive colleagues know it. He’s a massive liability, get rid of him.

  • goonerman

    i understand and i agree that our goalkeepers are not up to scratch and i think wenegr will adress the situation in the summer becuase i dont think we had a chance of getting a worth while keeper in the january window! BUT doesnt everyone agree that the keeper took the ball from fabianksi and gave the ball to their player not giving us a slight chance of getting back and defending and even worse when you watch the replays it shows that fabianski is walking back to the goal to get prepared so the ref has no common sense and allow them to take a free wuick when really we dont even have anybody guarding the goal! i know we were the architects of our own downfall but iv never see a fre kick that close to the goal been allowed to be taken so quickly they always let the opposing team set up a wall on the line!

    i really wana stop talking about the incidents but it just annoys me to see us being so badly critisiced when there was big mistakes made by the ref! i think devday needs to get an early sunderland preview up to get our minds switched to the game on saturday lol!!

  • CC

    This post is only to correct certain points of view that I have seen misleading the TRUE football fans.
    What happened in Porto was that the referee demanded the ball from a player (nevermind if the keeper or not, but who had made a foul!) to give back the ball to the team who was attacking.
    The laws of football are quite clear on this: the game should have as few interruptions as possible.
    The question that arises is that the player should had waited for the indication of the ref in question of free kick or not. However, the cleverness of the porto’s player antecipated that and passed the ball to his mate. Clear goal to me… of minor disrespect that the arsenal’s against chelsea (2-1) by henry.

  • Gooner Get Ya

    1) The ref took the ball, so should take responsibility for the restart!
    2) Handed the ball to Porto…then looked away missing the fact the ball was NOT stationary when kicked
    3) Got in Sol’s way once taken

    I ask how can this goal possibly stand??

    It is just wrong!!!

  • tekla

    I will not start over the not giving penalty for Arsenal for a blatant foul on Rosicky just before THE incident that over shadowed the game.

    But I just did. Well we don’t get penalty’s this season from refs and this is getting a bit annoying I think. If the Uefa has decided Arsenal not to give penalty’s any more that they please just say it so everyone knows it and we don’t expect penalty’s given anymore.

    So let’s get on to the most important decisions of the game.

    The rulebook says:

    An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, commits any of the following four offences:

    • takes more than six seconds while controlling the ball with his hands before releasing it from his possession

    • touches the ball again with his hands after it has been released from his possession and has not touched any other player

    • touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a team-mate

    • touches the ball with his hands after he has received it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate

    I put the most important word in bold and underlined it. But this is a decision which is based on how the ref sees it. I think Campbell was trying to shield the ball and it hit his left foot without the intention to kick it. But the ref saw it as deliberate so we cannot do much about it.

    But then starts the real mess up from the ref.

    Fabianski is holding the ball in his hands to prevent that Porto try to play it quick. But the ref demands the ball from Fabianski and if Fabianski didn’t give the ball to the ref he would have got a yellow card.

    Now if a ref takes the ball in his hands it is to place the ball on the right spot and to get everyone at the right distance. This was what all the Arsenal players were expecting. In fact when the Porto player takes the free kick Fabianski is walking back to his goal line with his back to the ball because he anticipated that the ref was going to take things in hand and to put all players in the right position.

    But the ref gives the ball to Porto who take it quickly and scores.

    Let me quote the rule and the instructions once again ( and I apologize if the English is not totally correct but the instructions from Fifa to refs I have are in Dutch) :

    In cases where a whistle is not required to restart a game, the referee GIVES A SIGNAL with one arm to get the game going. (except for a goal kick and a throw).

    So the ref has to give a signal with his arm to allow the game to restart. The ref does not give a signal. So the game could not be started again. I’ve seen it some 24 times now and nowhere and from no angle there is a sign that he makes to allow the game to restart.

    So the next thing from the rule book about:

    The Indirect Free Kick

    Signal

    The referee indicates an indirect free kick by raising his arm above his head. He maintains his arm in that position until the kick has been taken and the ball has touched another player or goes out of play.

    This means the ref has got to indicate BEFORE THE FREE KICK IS TAKEN that it is an indirect free kick. The ref only gives this signal when the ball reaches the other player. So again a mistake and a foul from the ref.

    To make things worse he obstructesn Sol Campbell who tried to prevent things as he ran in Sol’s way. So he took the defender out. Very bad positioning from the ref.

    The ref has made a total mess of this. If he had any common sense he would have blown and had the free kick retaken. But he didn’t and we can all feel very bad about this very poor decision from the ref.

    And like 2 seasons ago when the Swedish ref Peter Frojdfeldt send us home after a bad penalty decision against us in Liverpool it is another Swedish ref that hands us defeat and gives Porto a goal on a silver plate. Do the Swedes have something against The Arsenal ? Or is it instructions from higher places?

  • goonerman

    EXACTLY gooner get ya! if the ref is going to DEMAND the ball then surely he has a responsibility to give the arsenal players a chance to get back and the closest player to the ball was sol campbell and he was blocked by the ref! and cesc saying it was school boy defending does not mean he is going to leave it just means he knows what bad mistakes led to the goals and he has just said on the arsenal website how it was just a bad night for a young goalkeeper on the big stage!

    AND looking forward to saturday im fed up of loosing player after player! diaby is out of the game with knee damage like song! song is likely to return and almunia is 50:50 to come back with gallas and arshavin out of saturdays game and probably stoke next week!

    i really hope ramsey gets a start against sunderland alongside cesc and song becuase he has done well on the occasions he has played and why should denilson play ahead of him when he is not adding much to the team at the moment!

  • bayo

    DESPITE ALL IMAGINE IF ARSENAL WINS THE CHAMPIONS AND PREMIRE LEAGUE.I wLD SPEND ONE THOUSAND POUNDS ON A PARTY TO CELEBRATE

  • vj

    just read on arsenal website that fabianski is undergoing doping tests, lol maybe he was high!!!!!

  • Jeffo

    I feel that my words in calling the ref utter scum yesterday missed something so i would like to add that Fabianski is a tit!

  • Kuka

    MY POLICY: – No single player has a right to go to the media and critisize his team mates. It does not matter who they are. The talk about high school defending is utter rubbish. CESC was on the pitch too and remember its 11 players that play at one given time. In both cases, the goals that we conceived, the ball moved from Porto through our midfield and past Fabianski’s hands. I totally de-taste any single player who faces the media and looks down upon his play-mates. I do not care what CESC thinks or who he believes he is, he is part of a team that needs to win things. When the team does well, he receives credit as Captain – but when the team underperforms, he needs to humble himself and pick the team up. That is what leadership is all about.

    —-Lastly and I hope this is the last time am mentioning this. I do not care who leaves Arsenal FC. I have followed this lovely club since the 80′s which is pretty much since I was born. Then, there was no Wenger, no CESC, No Arshavin, No Henry and the list is endless. We did not win trophies, year after year, – but we had a committed bunch of GOONERS who rallied behind the team – in an almost boolish manner. They were die-hards who never let anyone critisize the men in red and white.

    MY POINT: – I miss those days. The days when we for some reason lost game, – we shall cheer the team and urge them on. And the players felt like they owed us. Player after player showed up to pay back the fans. I will be honest, I do not see a single player who walks to the Emirates Stadium – with that hunger to warm up the fans. Do I blame them? Not at all. Because we the fans – have not played our role.

    —–

  • tekla

    Financial stability or ambition? Which do fans want?

    Easy to answer that: BOTH. Fans want to know that their club can win something, but they don’t want the club to go bust.

    Thing is: for many clubs, it mightn’t be possible. Arsenal seemed to manage it, but now it seems that stability has taken precedence rather than short-term ambition.

    But it’s a fine, fine line to tread if you’re a Spurs, a Birmingham City, a Stoke City. Just what IS a reasonable ambition?? And what happens if you chase it and fail??

    Those are the questions facing football club Boards each May as they set their budgets for the following season. What does it cost to chase 4th spot from 7th? And what is the consequence of failing?? What does it cost for a promoted club to stay up?? And what happens if they go down again??

    Currently my answer is this: you almost certainly need to hock potential Champions League income buying players to get you there in the first place. The wages bill of the Premier League is unsustainable in the Championship and if you fail to reach the Champions League position, then you are in real trouble.

    It says to me that there needs to be rules about the nature of player contracts in the Premier League. Contingency clauses for going down. Bonuses contingent on finishing fourth or staying up. And contracts with a 24 month termination clause upon relegation, as parachute payments stop at that time.

    And it also says to me: is the success of the EPL hastening the day when a new structure for English football needs to emerge, with about 60 clubs in a Premier/Championship north/Championship south structure emerges?

    There’s always space for relegation in that. But I think that there comes a time when stability says forward planning needs a minimum certainty of income, which might come if clubs were sure that no further relegation were possible.

    I reckon there’s about 50-60 clubs with fan bases and catchment areas sufficient for 15,000+ crowds.

    The Cups could still function as the ‘romance of the pyramid’. But the reality is that smaller clubs than that are probably better competing against those of similar size than trying to harbour unsustainable dreams in the League.

    The Championship is now genuinely a competition. I wonder if a 20/18N/18S league structure, with money distributed a bit more widely through the media and financial rules put in place, would radically infuse English football with a greater stability?

    Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow.

    But maybe one day??

  • Kuka

    …Thanks Tekla. Excellent post and indeed good food for thought

  • graham

    There is only one MAJOR problem with our squad (which went unbeaten for November and December by the way) (See note 1 below) and that is the goalkeeper.

    If we had a strong commanding figure in goal the whole team would be lifted. You could add that our full backs, which were the best in the EPL (See note 2 below) two seasons ago, are out of form (See note 3 below) and the only reason Clichy is playing with an injury (See note 4 below) is that Traore is so bad. And Gibbs is better than Clichy.

    The second issue is a centre forward. That is not Bendtner’s best position, (See note 5 below) and with Eduardo still half a season away from full confidence (See note 6 below) and Robin still injured, I was surprised that Arsene Wenger did not bring someone in.

    Fabregas gave the ball away as often as any other player last night, yet you don’t slag him off. A good referee would have sent someone off for the number of times he was fouled.

    You, rightly, highlight two stupid goalkeeping mistakes, but to slag the whole team for that is very immature.

    I would buy their right winger because I thought he was excellent.

    With the number of players missing I look at last night’s result as disappointing, but not the end of the world. One day we will have a full strength team and a decent goalkeeper and then we can start to judge.

  • graham

    1. Er… Sunderland away? Chelsea home? Man City away? Olympiacos away? Figments of my negative imagination, I guess?
    2. Your use of this terminology says so much. I normally change this to Premier League in articles that are submitted, but I’ve left it here as it speaks volumes.
    3. Er… I actually did state that one of them was out of form!
    4. Is Clichy playing with an injury? I missed that one.
    5. And er… what is Bendtner’s best position supposed to be then? Do you really think he is best utilized on the right wing?
    6. Eh? The man returned from injury over a year ago. How long is this going to take?
    7. Well cheerio and best wishes. I sincerely hope your optimism proves justified. In the unlikely event you ever read this, please feel free to submit positive future contributions to balance out those who do not share your outlook.

  • tekla

    Portugese are cheats look at the UEFA cup final against Celtic a fantastic club with some of the best support in the world robbeed blind by disgusting tactics from Deco etc whilst been lead by Mouriniho. Do we really want that at Arsenal look at there vile cheating in world cup qualifiers againt Bosnia and Herz and now again with Porto. I thought we where intrested in Falcao once over but chuffed because did you see the mug celebrate his tap in. Then there is Ronaldo but to be fair he dosent dive as much as Gerrard and Rooney. I also think Cesc will go it breaks my heart i will have to take down my 40 by 30 inch canvas in my front room of him!!!

  • dampatti

    There is HUGE difference between Henry goal against Chelsea and Villa and the way Porto scored. You simply cant give free kick if there is no players around, hence the team have no chance of defending. I agree with Wenger on that. I can’t claim I know what is in referee rule book, but it is obvious that such a goals are just referee’s presents. And that is wrong. Arsenal luckily still have good chance of progressing, but teams like Ireland and Chelsea where permanently damaged buy terrible referee’s mistakes. I hear some folks approve cheating as special skills. Or referee’s mistakes as part of the game. Wrong! Football should be about football and nothing else. Cheating, breaking legs, poor refereeing etc is NOT football. Henry cheated and he should be out of world cup. Full stop. Chelsea were better team (yes, if you are watching as football fan but not as supporter than i think you judge will be better) and should have at least 2-3 penalties. T Arsenal against Porto should have won. I understand referees are human being but if there is technology to eliminate human mistakes than why not use it? it is beyond my belief that such a thing as video technology is not in action. Even corner shops have video technology in use why not football. If there is human life in questions than they would introduce it next minute. I would even use for offsides. Offsides mistakes cripple the teams who play attacking football. I think it is fair that better team goes furthest.

  • devday

    @dampatti – as soon as the ref touches it, you can’t give a quick free kick, it has to be done by the whistle… did you hear Arsene’s rant today?

    http://worldofarsenal.co.uk/2010/02/19/arsenal-vs-sunderland-preview-and-my-take-on-the-porto-refereeing/