You talk Arsenal, You talk mental strength…
Words can not describe how I felt last after the match last night. I had just seen my team fight back in a game they were below-par, we had just come back from 2 goals against the best team in the world and probably the team of the decade. Titi came back home for the first time in an away strip and Cesc also had scores to settle with his “makers”; everyone expected a cracker, and boy, was it one. That game of football had everything. Quality. Controversy. Drama. Goals. Saves. Misses.
From the two line-ups I thought this match was going to be end-to-end back and forth with both team pulling each other aside, with some goals, I was to be later proved wrong(well the last part did happen)
The game started with Cesc (who was fit enough to start and Gallas as well) kicking off the match. Two minutes gone and we were already on the back-foot with Barca winning a corner that came to Busquets who powered a shot from the edge of the box to force a fine save from Almunia (save number one, please keep count). Getting out of our own half seemed almost impossible and Messi was the next to take initiative as he danced around Song after Diaby had lost the ball before aiming for the net where Big Al proved impenetrable and saved……Again(save number 2).
Forget that I said it was impossible to get out of our own half, it was hard to string passes together with the only foray forward culminating in Arshavin losing out to busquets and in a bid to win the ball fouled him, got booked and injured himself. Having a half-fit Cesc,Diaby,Gallas and Arsh did us no favors whatsoever. Dani Alves who was given the entire freedom of the left hand side due to Nasri’s inability to cover defensively continued to pump crosses into our box and one almost provided the opening goal as he switched play to Maxwell who left Sagna for dead before laying to Xavi. He unleashed a stinging drive which Big Al palmed away before showing quick reflexes to push out Alves’ rebound as Arsenal scrambled away. Our number one was having a blinder, and long over-due too.
This was becoming annoying to watch as Arsh went off to be replaced by Eboue and a few minutes later Gallas followed suit. Barca were content as they stroked the ball around masterfully and Diaby looking a shadow of his former self and Nasri trying his best to ignite Arsenal as twice his cut-backs into the box were cleared by Carles Puyol. Moments later Fabregas was got booked for trying to win the ball which in all fairness was harsh meaning He is going to miss the next match and it was to tell on his performance. Half time couldn’t have come at a better time.
I was cursing the defence and biting my nails as a fellow gooner beside me lavished praise on Almunia, I told him to stop that Al was going to be the death of us and in true fashion he did not disappoint. A harmless over the top pass to Zlatan saw him rush out needlessly and zlatan lobbed him calmly…0-1..I looked to my side and the words I told u so came out. Arsene was not even on the field to see the goal as it came just 22 seconds after the restart. This is not to underestimate his work though, but in all honesty the goal was cheap.
Thinking this will spur us to at least attack with some impetus and attack did they. Cesc sent Clichy running before pulling the ball for Bendtner who at point blank range nodded straight at Valdes. It seemed we were going to cave in and fall apart as a Xavi through ball to Zlatan(who sprung the offside trap and with help from Clichy who played him on) saw him take his time before rifling the ball into the top corner. 0-2 and Barca were having a party in London.
We’re screwed I thought. Messi who had been quiet all night thanks to Clichy started to threaten by getting into dangerous positions but Song(now in defence) and TV5 held strong. Arsene had seen enough, He took off Sagna for Theo meaning Eboue dropped to defence and it was a masterstroke that paid off almost immediately. Denilson(on for Gallas and who was having a fantastic game) passed to Bendtner who controlled before releasing Theo who had gotten round Maxwell and he showed good composure to calmly slot the ball under Valdes who should have done better. But who cares? Game on!!! The grove was alive again.
We had all the momentum in the world now, pushing Barca back to their post and passing the ball around beautifully, stringing pass after pass, Theo was sending a strong message across to the watching Capello. We finally got the reward for our spirit when Eboue’s cross to Nikky B was well cushioned for Cesc and as He shaped to shoot, his leg was caught by Puyol. PENALTY!!! Everyone where I was celebrated like it was a final. The Barca skipper was sent off because it was goal bound, Cesc stepped up and smashed the penalty so viciously that he broke his fibula. Now our advantage was lost, or not really because Cesc opted to play through extreme pain even though He was barely mobile.
We controlled the match for the remaining minutes, and I almost forgot, Titi came on late in the match and got what he deserved, an ear-deafening applause for being our hero, and boos for being an opponent. Classic stuff. But He had little impact on the outcome of the match as we were clearly in the ascendancy when He came on.
So we ended the match 2-2, not a good result at home in Europe against a team like Barca but the manner in which we got it made it sweet and unforgettable and proved that Barca are vulnerable when under pressure. We were pushed to the wall and showed mental strength to fight back against all odds. The lads played their hearts out but I feel they were a bit over-awed by the occasion and the opponent. A few stood out though, the likes of Almunia, Theo, Denilson, Nasri, Eboue and Song.
It was a wonderful spectacle, logic completely turned on its head and one thing I kept in my mind, and I’m sure most gooners agree with me, it was greatly emotional but if this match didn’t get you emotional, then nothing probably can!
Extremely long post eh? sorry but it was well worth it. From wherever you are reading, have fun.
9jabred says so, Escobar concurs!