Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gunners news : Arsenal 2 vs 1 Birmingham

Arsenal registered a victory over Birmingham City to continue their upward push in the Premier League following the international break.

Nikola Zigic initially put his side ahead against the run of play, but the hosts came back to claim three points through a penalty from Samir Nasri and a goal from Marouane Chamakh.

The Gunners manager Arsene Wenger again missed the services of skipper Cesc Fabregas as the Spaniard continues to nurse a hamstring injury. Defenders Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny and goalkeeper Manuel Almunia joined him on the sidelines. But young left-back Kieran Gibbs was available as he made the bench.

There was some positive news for the Frenchman, as Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott recovered from their respective injuries to be named among the substitutes.

In the away dugout, manager Alex McLeish had midfielder Alexander Hleb back in action after the 29-year-old missed an international game for Belarus due to an ankle problem. Cameron Jerome had been slated as a doubt after sustaining an ankle injury during training, and the striker was missing from the squad. Craig Gardner was unavailable as he was suspended for this game.

Thus began Wenger's 800th game in charge of the Gunners, as his side began positively by putting their well-paced passing game on display. And in the sixth minute, it took a great block from defender Stephen Carr to ensure that the score line remained goalless from a shot from Marouane Chamakh.

After a little over 20 minutes had passed, a good counterattacking move from the hosts saw Abou Diaby release Andrey Arshavin to go one-on-one with goalkeeper Ben Foster, but the attacker's attempted lob was well read by the shot-stopper on that occasion - and the score remained unchanged.

And in another positive spell of possession, the home side were toying with their opponents in the attacking third of the pitch when a ball from midfielder Nasri saw midfielder Sebastian Larsson being defensively inert. By this time, left-back Gael Clichy had got forward as he took a shot, but it went wide as Birmingham breathed another sigh of relief.

Despite doing all the work, it was the Gunners who conceded first as the Blues took the lead against the run of play. A good cross from Keith Fahey saw towering forward Zigic head the ball into the back of the net. Defender Johan Djourou could have done better on that occasion, as he had left the Serbia international unmarked until the last moment.

Having broken the deadlock, Birmingham began to take the initiative and push for a second, but it saw them being slightly more exposed at the other end as Wenger's charges tried to draw level. In one such attacking move, Chamakh was taken down by Scott Dann as the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Nasri, who had no trouble sending the 'keeper the wrong way to score his fifth goal of the season.

Wenger's half-time team-talk must have had a really good effect on his players, as they managed to take the lead immediately after the break. Some good play in the middle saw young midfielder Jack Wilshere release Chamakh, who went on to coolly get past the Foster to put the ball into the back of the net.

McLeish's men went forward to restore equilibrium to the tie as Larsson sent in a fantastic cross, but unfortunately for the visitors Lukasz Fabianski did very well to punch the ball away amid traffic.

The Gunners then managed to pick up where they left off as they applied pressure on Birmingham. as Alex Song passed to Wilshere as the 21-year-old took a hard-hit shot, but sent the ball over the bar.

A few minutes later Zigic was unable to make a clearance at the near post off a cross from Nasri, but the defenders managed to ensure that the hosts did not double their lead.

Nicklas Bendtner came on for Chamakh as he made his first appearance at club level since April, but the Dane had no trouble getting into the game. With only a few minutes left to go, the tall forward almost put his side ahead by another goal - but was unable to stick hit foot in the right place, in what would have been an exquisite finish had it come off.

Deep into stoppage time, Wilshere was shown a red card for a very reckless challenge on Zigic, who was in some pain as he limped off the pitch before coming back on to see the end of the game.

As the man in charge brought the game to a halt, Wenger's 800th game as the manager of Arsenal resulted in a victory.



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