Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A 5-1 win and then Eduardo received the biggest compliment we could make

Arsenal 5 - Shakhtar Donetsk 1
Champions League Group H
At Ashburton Grove

Well where did that come from? To be honest, that game never felt like it was 5-1. Perhaps it was the poor first half which has made me feel that way. But the results, against a team who were yet to concede in the Champions League prior to their visit to the Grove, proves how clinical we were last night.

It is probably fair to say it was a tale of two halves. The first a lackluster display, even though we went in at half time 2-0 up. I have to be honest, I thought the game was dull. Boring in fact.

It didn't help that there were so many empty seats in the ground last night and the lack of alcohol on sale, does seem to me to drop the  atmosphere.

But in reality it is the group stages of this competition which people can't get excited about. Shakhtar, a decent team, were swept aside here. Who's going to get excited about three easy group games prior to the real football starting in the knock out rounds?

So to the game. Wenger dropped Arshavin and Diaby from the side which started the game against Birmingham. The Russian deserving a rest and with our captain Cesc Fabregas returning, Diaby was the obvious candidate to drop to the bench.

It was good to see the Fabregas start this game. We're going to need him at his very best for the weekend clash with Manchester City, so minutes under his belt last night will do him the world of good.

From the off we had plenty of the ball. It seemed that Shakhtar's game plan was to leave us with the ball in our defence and press us whenever our midfielders and attackers had it.

That led to lots of square passing inside our half as we tried to create openings in the opposition's defence.

We went ahead in the 18th minute due to a goalkeeping error. Unusual for that to be written on this blog, as it normally seems it is our keeper who is making those.

Shakhtar goalkeeper Pyatov came to collect a corner under no pressure but somehow dropped the ball inside his six yard box. Johan Djourou reacted quickest to hit the ball goal bound, Alex Song getting in the way of a goal line clearance and the ball ricocheted off him and over the line.

Not something you normally see at the Grove.

Thomas Rosicky was then involved in two passages of play which could have increased our lead. The first a cross for Chamakh which the Moroccan headed down for Samir Nasri to shoot goal bound. And the second a penalty shout.

However despite us comfortably holding the game, Shakhtar had a couple of efforts themselves which didn't test Lukusz Fabianski in the Arsenal goal.

Three minutes before half time we added our second. Eboue and Song combining well on the right, with the Cameroon midfielder putting the ball across for Nasri. He shielded it with his body to move it across to the left hand side of the area where he had a free shot on goal, smashing the ball through the Shakhtar keeper.

So 2-0 at half time. And although there were goals, it felt like a very flat performance from Arsenal. Perhaps that was because Shakhtar weren't allowing us to play our game?

The opening stages of the second half saw Fabianski make a good save from Luiz Adriano and as the visitors were looking to change things around, Arsenal added their third goal.

A Nasri free kick from the right, saw Djourou brought to the ground inside the box and the referee gave a penalty. His fifth assistant (is that what they're called?) behind the goal didn't seem to give it, despite it being right in front of him.

Anyway, Cesc Fabregas stepped up to smash the ball into the top left hand corner and it was game over.

The captain was substituted shortly afterwards, with Denilson coming on in his place.

At the same time Eduardo was given a warm reception as he came on for Shakhtar replacing Adriano.

A fine passing movement saw the home side add to their goals. Wilshere, Chamakh and Rosicky exchanging passes before the England youngster was set free in the box to chip the ball over the keeper. 4-1.

And then we added a fifth. Chamakh left in acres of space behind the Shakhtar central defensive pair and not offside, could not believe his luck. He seemed to check the linesman wasn't flagging, then control the ball before slotting it home.

It was time for a consolation and there was only one man who was going to get it. Eduardo starting and finishing the move before volleying home a well-taken effort.

He did not celebrate and for that he received applause from the crowd. And then the biggest compliment as the chant ran round the stadium: "Arsene sign him up! Arsene, Arsene, sign him up!"

It was good to see the Croatian back. It still grates me that his Arsenal career is still tinged with so much what might have been.

Arsenal finished the game 5-1 winners, top of the group. 
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