Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Arsenal 5 - Porto 0: Bendtner shines with a hat-trick

Bendtner and Eboue, originally uploaded by Ashburton Grove Blog.

When you ask a player to step up, like I did with Nicklas Bendtner last night in my preview piece of the Porto game, you can't really ask more when he scores three goals and plays a pivotal part in Arsenal gaining a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The atmosphere inside the Grove last night was excellent, especially before the first goal went in. It was probably the best I've ever experienced this season.
The crowd got behind the team when we knew they needed our help. The only disappointment was the way the fans who'd been so supportive for the opening 10 minutes fell away after the first goal was scored.

Perhaps the goal was unexpected – it came on the tenth minute. Or was it we are unused to a goal that early, having only scored just one in the first 15 minutes all season.

Whatever it was, the chanting fell away and the atmosphere dropped.

However this did not stop our team performing.

The line up was strong. Wenger choosing to start with experience. He opted for Bacary Sagna at right back, alongside Sol Campbell who came in for Mikaël Silvestre.
The midfield trio picked itself with Cesc Fabregas injured. Samir Nasri, with Alex Song and Abou Diaby.
While Tomas Rosicky was preferred to Theo Walcott on the right, alongside Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin.

It was the little Russian who helped create the first goal for Bendtner. From a goal kick, Nasri took the ball down and played it into space between the Porto central defender and right back. Arshavin attacked the space and made contact with the ball before the Porto keeper came out feet first to try and win the ball.
He collided with his own player and Arshavin but the ball fell kindly for Bendtner who slotted home from inside the penalty area.

The second came 15 minutes later. Good work from Arshavin again on the left saw him drive through three players, and with a lucky ricochet drove to the byline.
He cross perfectly for Bendtner to turn in from close range.

And the hard work had been done for the evening. If we kept a clean sheet we knew we wouldn't need to score more to proceed to the next round.

Porto aren't the team they were under Jose Mourinho. They had very little attacking intent last night, with nine shots in total – five of which were off target.

They did their best to frustrate Arsenal and break up play with niggly fouls, many of which the referee brought. The two yellow cards Arsenal received, to Bendtner and Vermaelen, were unjustified from where I was standing.

The second half started and there didn't seem to be a plan as to whether we were going to go on the attack to get the third goal, or hold on to possession and make sure Porto didn't score.

I imagine that Arsene said to the players they should continue what they were doing but weren't to concede a goal.

It was a case of the next goal wins, you could have thought.

The first substitution made from Arsene was to bring off Tomas Rosicky, who didn't have his best game, and replace him with Emmanuel Eboue.

There was some nervousness created from a Porto corner, but Nasri was on the right hand post as the ball came in and managed to get in the way.

Three minutes after that chance saw the Frenchman dance his way past three Porto defenders, teasing them with the ball before executing a right foot shot which went inside the far post.

If you haven't seen it, check the goal out.

Arsenal were now in the driving seat and this tie wasn't in any further doubt. The crowd were back in full voice and behind their team, not that they had ever not been behind them. But the nervousness during the second and third goals didn't help.

Emmanuel Eboue scored the fourth goal. From a Porto corner, Arshavin out muscles a defender on the left with the ball bouncing and sets off on a run. Eboue kept up with him and paced his way past the two covering defenders to run on to an excellently weighted pass to take the ball around the keeper and slot home.

And the fifth was a penalty which was created by Eboue. His darting run into the box saw a challenge come in from the right back Fucile who took him down.

There was no way that Bendtner was going to let anyone else take the spot kick and he slotted home.

Arsenal 5 – Porto 0. Great result and performance. Can't ask for more really.

A quick round up of the papers:

In the Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter writes: “Here was Arsenal at their fluid, attacking best. Here was Arsenal also at their most variety-filled, being prepared to take the high road as well as low towards Porto's area. The full range of the hosts' available weaponry was brought to bear on Helton's goal.”

While in The Times, Matt Hughes is also positive about our chances this season.
He writes: “Arsenal were magnificent, with Nasri and Andrey Arshavin making light of the absence of Cesc Fàbregas, their injured playmaker, in midfield, suggesting they can challenge strongly in both Barclays Premier League and Champions League.
Bendtner's remarkable renaissance vindicated the judgement of his manager, who stood by the striker when other managers might have made a change after he had missed four clear chances in the 3-1 win over Burnley on Saturday.”

And a great piece also The Times by Patrick Barclay which sums up the evening. The worry after the first two goals had gone in. The not knowing whether to attack to score the third goal or defend. And the joy in the victory.

Amy Lawrence writes about the joy of our performance in The Guardian while her colleague David Hytner writes about Sol Campbell's return to Arsenal.

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