Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Arsenal have Fabianski to thank for their Belgrade win

Twenty four hours ago I said Arsene Wenger had to do three things to win last night's game in Serbia.

In doing so, I was not questioning the manager's faith in the team, nor was I making a knee-jerk reaction to Saturday's defeat by West Brom.

So Emmanuel Eboue went out of the side, along with Samir Nasri, Laurent Kosicelny and Gael Clichy. Already left in London were the injured duo Manuel Almunia and Abou Diaby.

This side had a fresh feel to it. You would have to say six changes is rather a lot for a tough Champions League away fixture. But the team inspired by Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin made sure we returned to London with all three points.

It was the Russian who opened the scoring in the first half, combining well with Wilshere inside the Partizan penalty area and then scoring  to put us into a deserved lead.

Our movement and passing were stretching the Serbians - who I thought were a decent side.

But we were pegged back to 1-1 after a Denilson handball in the area had given the home side a spot kick and the impressive Cleo slotted home in the 32nd minute.

The Serbian crowd wouldn't give up and their incessant chanting provided a hostile atmosphere. The game was being played under partial light due to electricity failures which forced the Arsenal team to prepare for the match under the lights of their mobile phones.

Arshavin seemed to have a hatfull of chances to add to the lead. He had all but scored with a decent flick over the goalkeeper but for a Partizan defender to get back just in time to clear his effort before it went over the line.

HIs other efforts were stopped by their inform keeper Vladimir Stojkovic, who you thought was going to have one of those games keepers tend to have against us, always being there at the right time and in the right place.

At half time it was 1-1. Probably a fair result, as they'd had some chances too.

The second half got under way and we started the better of the two sides.

In the 53rd minute Chamakh was sent clear by an Arshavin ball but the Moroccan was taken down by the defender just inside the area. The Partizan player was duly sent off. 

Arshavin step up to the spot but his effort was saved by the legs of Stojkovic.

How many times have Arsenal had two penalties either missed (Rosicky) or saved (Arshavin) in recent history? Amazing really. I always considered us the kings of penalties.

Anyway, the game continued and with Arsenal now having a numerical advantage over their host, you would expect nothing other than an Arsenal win.

Arsenal added to their lead in the 70th minute. Chamakh heading home Rosicky's cross to score his first away goal in Arsenal colours.

The Moroccan was then substituted along with Wilshere, with Carlos Vela and Samir Nasri entering the fray. 

Nasri looked impressive and sparked more life into this Arsenal side.

It was the Frenchman's corner which was powered home by Sebastien Squillaci in the 82nd minute to seal Arsenal's victory.

However the game wasn't over. Kieran Gibbs was penalised for a foul late on inside the area and this time Fabianski saved the spot kick, turning the ball around the post. It was an excellent save and what I hope will be the turning point in his Arsenal career.

It wasn't however the last action of the game for the Pole in goal. He had to save well from Ivica Iliev to deny Partizan a chance to get back into the game.

All in all a very good night for Fabianski who played very well and will receive a lot of plaudits for his performance. One which I think we all think he was due.

Elsewhere this morning, the Daily Mail report we've handed a trial to 19-year-old South African defender Siyanda Xulu.

Player ratings to follow.

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