Well Iâ€™ll be honest, that wasnâ€™t the match I was expecting to report on. But led by Ledley, Dawson and the incomparable Gomes we scrapped our way to a win, our first in a North London Derby for ten years.
The euphoria at the end was the polar extreme to the flatness of seven oâ€™clock on Sunday. The smuggers had started disappearing back towards Maidstone, Guildford and Reading well before Bentdnerâ€™s prod in from Walcottâ€™s raised hopes in what remained of the away end and thoughts of â€˜oh no, here we go againâ€™ amongst the home fans. But we neednâ€™t have worried. Those who stayed got to witness wild celebrations on all sides of the ground as for once Clattenburg failed to randomly spoil our entertainment and blew the final whistle with us still hanging on to a lead granted by Premier League debutant Danny Roseâ€™s wonderful volley and Gareth Baleâ€™s first goal of a memorable season for him.
Who says we never score from corners? After ten minutes Pavlyuchenkoâ€™s first time shot from Kaboulâ€™s cross was deflected over by Vermaelen. Baleâ€™s corner was punched clear by Almunia who recovered just in time to watch Roseâ€™s 25 yard left foot first timer rocket over his head into the net. It was a truly thunderous effort and brought back memories of Bentleyâ€™s opener at the Haemorrhoids last season. Farce nearly ensued as the goal celebrations continued in our half giving Arsenal every right to kick off whilst our players were still huddled round Rose on the edge of our box. Luckily we assembled some shape again before they had the wit to take advantage.
Baleâ€™s goal came perfectly just after half time. Huddlestone found Defoe with a lovely thirty yard ball and he, for once, managed to resist the temptation to jink a couple of times before slamming a shot into the nearest defender. Instead he picked out Bale who had made a run behind Sylvestre to the edge of the area. Defoeâ€™s diagonal pass was inch perfect and our favourite Welshman sidefooted calmly first time past Almunia whilst Scumbell and his mates recalled days of Bould and Adams by playing statues with their arms in the air.
Our makeshift side put in a pretty makeshift performance to be honest. We gave the ball away so easily, especially in the first half and some of the decision making by the players in possession was awful. With perhaps the exception of Modric, the players found finding a white shirt an impossible task before half time. Youâ€™d expect Arsenal to have a lot of possession but with this level of composure and technique, Leyton Orient wouldâ€™ve had the lionâ€™s share of the ball if we were playing them. Despite this, Gomes didnâ€™t have a save to make in the first forty five (though Assou-Ekotto did clear off the line in the first minute) as Rosicky and Nasri mostly twisted and tippy tapped thirty yards out to no effect.
We became more confident as the game grew older. Bentley had come on for Rose at half time and Gudjohnsen replaced Defoe later on. Both added composure to the side. Wenger sent on his big guns, Walcott and Van Persie came on for Sagna & chopper Denilson after 68 minutes. Van Persie forced the best from Gomes and how he responded. In the space of a couple of minutes he produced two world class saves and an unforgettable tip over from a seeming perfectly placed free kick. Truly awesome stuff.
Our midfield was outnumbered and lightweight, our defence just back from injury and playing out of position and our forwards moody and off the pace. Yet we won. Loads of credit goes to Dawson and King and also to Huddlestone and Modric. Big Tom was having real problems with the pace of the game (as well as his passing) but he kept working and forcing Rosicky and Nasri wide. Bale was excellent again despite being subjected to a working over from Sagna. So a performance of guts and commitment more than skill and accomplishment, but still one more than enough to shake off a hoodoo and revive our season in spectacular style.
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