So, after that shambles of a Premier League game at the weekend, it was time to turn our attention to the Champions League, and make sure we avoid any hangovers from that game.
The starting line-up saw 6 changes made, with the likes of Koscielny, Nasri, Clichy, Rosicky dropped/injured/rested. Fabianski was preferred in goal, with Almunia injured.
Sagna, Djourou, Squillaci, Gibbs
Song, Denilson, Wilshere
Rosicky, Chamakh, Arshavin
Missed the start of the game, as I was on my way from work, but apparently, we started a bit shakily, withFabianksi already called into action inside the first 5 minutes. Was hurrying home as much as I could and was hoping the goals would wait until I got home, but it seems the players didn’t get my memo. Something to do with those floodlight failures earlier, I’m sure…
Good thing it was an Arsenal goal though, as Partizan were threatening. The goal was scored in the 15th minute by Arshavin, created by Wilshere with a lovely back-heel inside the box into Arshavin’s path and he lashed it into the back of the net. Say what you want about Arshavin being a lazy so-and-so, he’s been doing his thing quietly and getting the job done. I guess one always expects fire-works from him and in all honesty, we haven’t had any from him lately. But he’s been doing his bit. I even spotted him tracking back today…
So with the goal, we were getting into our stride and starting to dominate, and had chances to double our lead. Their goalkeeper was doing his best to keep them in the hunt, if not the game would have been over before half-time. When we did manage to beat the ‘keeper, Arshavin chipped effort ended up being cleared off the line by a Partizan player. It was very similar to Cesc’s against Braga, when he almost had his hat-trick.
But not long after Arshavin’s effort, Partizan got their equaliser, 30 minutes into the game. It came from a penalty, as a result of a supposed handball by Denilson in the box. I’m going to come all Wenger-like and say I didn’t see it, but I didn’t. The replay(s) I saw wasn’t conclusive. But anyways, a penalty it was. Cleo (anagram of Cole, I see!) took the penalty, calmly rolling it into the bottom right corner, sending Fabianski the wrong way.
Annoying to concede at that stage of the game, but you sensed we had it in us to wrap the game up, just a question of when. Oh, and apparently that’s our 13th away game without a clean sheet. Well, you don’t earn extra points for clean sheets, but it’s always a nice feeling for the team, having one.
So we went into half-time on level terms. (Un)deserverdly? Doesn’t matter. We had to step it up in the second half and take our chances, because we were creating them.
With 55 minutes on the clock, another penalty was awarded, this time to us after Chamakh was brought down in the box, after being sent through by Arshavin. The Partizan player was shown a straight Red, and Arshavin stepped up to take the penalty. He went straight down the middle, but unfortunately that didn’t work, as the ‘keeper saved it with his legs. Missed opportunity, but a positive from that, if ever there was one, is that Rosicky would probably have breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that he’s not the only Arsenal player capable of missing penalties! Probably.
But the game was still deadlocked, but with the extra-man advantage, surely it was only a matter of time? The Partizan ‘keeper was still performing heroics, but there was not much more he could have done about our second goal, which came in the 71st minute. Rosicky- fuelled on from his renewed confidence following Arshavin’s miss, probably- crossed the ball into the box from the right, finding Chamakh whose initial effort was tipped onto the bar by the Partizan ‘keeper, but he was first to the rebound, and headed it into the net this time! 2-1 to Arsenal, totally deserved.
I really thought we’d run away with the game from then on, but with 2 substitutions after the goal- Vela and Nasri for Chamakh and Wilshere- our rhythm was slightly disturbed and we were letting Partizan back into the game. But 10 minutes later, it looked like we’d sealed the game up, with Squillaci grabbing our third and his first Arsenal goal, with a glancing header from a Nasri right-wing corner. Arsene then made his final substitution, with Clichy coming on for Arshavin.
But Partizan were not done yet as very very shortly after out third goal, they had a really good chance to get back in the game and put more pressure on us in the dying minutes. They were awarded a penalty- their second, and the third of the game- for a Gibbs clumsy challenge which I thought had started out the box. Anyways, penalty given, and Cleo stepped up again. But this time around, he seemed to be channelling his anagram-sake from West London, and suddenly it was the Fabianski mini-show, as he saved well low down to his right. Well played, Fabi! And I said it was the Fabianski mini-show as not long after, he made another save in injury-time to prevent a goal that might have taken the gloss off our win a little. It was a top save and for a minute, I was worried he’d simply pushed the ball into the net (where have we seen that before!?), but he pushed it round the post. Well played again!
So full-time, 3-1 to Arsenal, and a good work-out. It was always going to be a tricky game with injury to our key players, but it was a winnable game on paper, and I’m glad we were able to pull through.
Nest up though, Chelsea at the Bridge. Much bigger test, and it’s such a shame we’ll be missing the likes of Cesc and Theo, and maybe Vermaelen. But as always, I’m always confident we can pull something out. Chelsea’ll be facing a new centre-back pairing, hopefully Squillaci and Koscielny (if Vermaelen is still not fit). Who knows, that might make all the difference! But we’ve got to be on top of our game, all 11 of the players, plus the 3 subs!
I’m well up for that game and I hope the players will be too, but for now, let’s enjoy today’s win!