So after the destruction of Porto in the Champions League, it was back to our other target- the Premier League, where we had to face Hull City. Away trips after a mid-week European tie are always the hardest, and with the ‘hostility’ between our club and theirs, it was never going to be an easy game.
Changes from the team that faced Porto saw Denilson and Eboue replace Song (suspension) and Rosicky (injury) in the starting XI.
Sagna– Campbell – Vermaelen– Clichy
Denilson – Diaby
Eboue– Nasri– Arshavin
Just like the Porto game, we started very brightly, if that means scoring a goal inside 15 minutes! It was only our second Premier League goal scored in that period this season, the other being away to Burnley. It was actually our 100th goal of the season, and it was scored by Arshavin. A pretty good goal it was, too! The ball was passed to him on the edge of the box by Bendtner, and he stumbled his way past 2 defenders, before quickly firing his shot across Boaz Myhill with his right foot. Cracking start!
It looked like we’d kick on from then, but like the last time we scored that early in the League, we conceded an equaliser, thanks to a penalty. How annoying though, that the player fouled- Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink- was offside when the ball was played to him! Apart from the fact that he was offside, it was a legitimate penalty. Sol’s challenge was clumsy, and if not because the ball was behind the Hull player, he probably would have been sent off. Anyways, the penalty was given and Jimmy Bullard duly dispatched it to the top-left corner
So out of nowhere really, we were level. That seemed to give the Hull players lots of belief, but they seemed to channel most of that belief into making unnecessary fouls, and it was only a matter of time before someone got sent off. The Hull captain was the eventual culprit. He ought to have been sent off twice, if that was possible! He should have seen Red for raising his hand to Bendtner’s face (shortly after Dawson picked up a yellow for a late tackle on Denilson), as he actually poked him in the eye. Totally not acceptable. The referee didn’t see it, but after his assistant consulted with him, he showed him a yellow. Even more surprising was the fact that he showed Bendtner a yellow as well! Barely 10 minutes later, he picked up another yellow, this time for a horrible tackle where he caught Sagna high on the knee. Apparently this was the third time in his career that he’d been shown a Red card against us. Interesting.
But anyways, the Red card came almost on the stroke of half-time, so we couldn’t really capitalise on it before the half-time whistle went, so we went into the break, level at 1-1. Our early impetus had disappeared, and with Hull set to defend for their lives for the whole of the second half, we had to ensure that the game didn’t end as a draw.
We started the half in an alright manner, although the memorable thing that happened in the first few minutes was a Sol Campbell challenge on Zayatte, a few yards outside the box. It was a strong challenge, but a perfectly legal one, although Zayatte couldn’t continue the game as he picked up an injury in the process and was replaced by a young defender, Cooper, who actually had a decent game, as one thought he would be the weak link.
Anyways, Hull defended really well and limited us to only a handful of chances. We were sort of camped in their half the whole time and they barely troubled Almunia, although Jimmy Bullard did have a shot from long-range, but it was always rising.
Wenger’s first substitution was made 25minutes from time, with Theo coming on for Eboue. And he made an immediate impact which should have led to a goal. He got past the defender on the right, pulling the ball back for Nasri who toe-poked it into Arshavin’s path, but his shot was a wayward one which went miles off-target. We continued to press, looking for the winner, but it was tough going. Hull kept making timely blocks to frustrate us. Bendtner did have a chance, but his acrobatic effort went over the bar. The only other substitution Arsene made was to bring Eduardo on for Nasri.
It was beginning to look like one of those days, but just like we did at Stoke, we found a way to get the winner. And who best to get it but Nicklas Bendtner?! The assist (if it can be called one!) came from the unlikeliest of sources, though. Denilson hadn’t had the best game in all honesty, but he decided to take a pot-shot from long-range (which he does ever so often). It was on target, and really, the goalie ought to have done a better job of saving it, but he inexplicably parried it back into the danger area and Nikky B made no mistake and buried it! He might have missed all those chances against Burnley, but it seems he has the habit of scoring important goals for us, and this was definitely one of them! We also have the habit of scoring late goals as a team and even though that’s not good for most of our hearts, it definitely is a good sign as it shows the lads don’t give up until the final whistle goes, which is the way it’s meant to be, if we want to win trophies.
Nasri had a quiet game but it was understandable, as he’s only played a couple of games in the Cesc-role and you wouldn’t expect him to be on it all the time. He defended quite well, but he couldn’t really get into the game.
Here’s Arsene’s view on the win:
“It was a very big win. When you play a difficult game at midweek there is a lot of mental tension. And we came here and won today, so of course a big three points. We know what is at stake every time you go away like that. We needed the three points and we got it after 90 minutes, exactly like at Stoke. It tells you that it was a difficult game, but as well that we have desire and mental strength and we never give up. And for such a young team that is great.”
I’m tempted to say the result was unfair on Hull, but I wouldn’t. And in my opinion anyways, we definitely deserved all 3 points as we were the only team that looked like scoring. It wasn’t a stellar performance ofcourse, but at the moment, I’m sure we’ll all take results over performance, especially if it means we edge that bit closer to the title!
And oh, to make the win even sweeter, it turns out to be Phil Brown’s last game in charge of Hull, as he’s been sacked as of Monday morning! Totally awesome!