Friday, December 10, 2010

Gunner news : Arsenal 3-1 Partizan

Supersub Walcott Eases Nerves Before Nasri Clinches Place In Last 16

Despite being the vastly superior side on paper, the Gunners were, for long periods, not their fluid best against the Serbians who had brought over a team bent on stifling the home team.

Predictably, Arsene Wenger’s men started the more composed, controlling most of the play and looking – where it was evident – the more likely to grab a lead. That said, the English side were not playing with the urgency their fans or their group position suggested.

In the other game in Group H, Braga could hijack second place if they won at table toppers Shakhtar Donetsk. While Arsenal were failing to take the lead, their situation was precarious.

After a prolonged period of possession the Gunners provided the first piece of dazzling football. Samir Nasri, who was looking spritely, showed a slick piece of skill to turn away from his marker.

After passing to Bacary Sagna, he made a darting run into the box as the Frenchman returned the compliment. His weighted ball to Robin van Persie was precise, but the Dutchman could only steer wide from a near-impossible angle.

Although Partizan were not looking like a dynamic attacking force, playing as they were with a lone striker, they started to look more comfortable and were having their own share of possession.

As a drab half meandered into its final third, Arsenal warmed their shivering fans with the opening goal. It was testament to the stuttering game that defensive errors were the cause.

Partizan failed on two occasions to clear the ball before it bounced through to Van Persie in the box, he took it away from the goal and made the most of a poor lunge by Marko Jovanovic. Contact was slight and Van Persie was dramatic, but there were few complaints when the referee pointed to the spot.

Having won the spot-kick, Van Persie dispatched it, with aplomb, to the goalkeeper’s left.

The rest of the half was uneventful with Emmanuel Eboue – who had come on for the injured Kieran Gibbs – providing a sparkle. The Ivorian made a jinking run down the left before delivering a delicious cross with the outside of his right foot, but it was cleared away.

The second half began with a little more verve. Great work by Arshavin found Denilson on the left. His low cross broke off a defender’s boot to Nasri, but the Frenchman flashed high over the bar from 12 yards.

Home fans were starting to get tetchy and this moved into fear when Partizan equalised. A ball into Moreira was touched delightfully to Cleo on the edge of the box. His shot was destined to be saved but took a horrible deflection off Sebastien Squillaci. This bamboozled Lukasz Fabianski in the Arsenal goal, and the Pole could do nothing as the ball looped over him into the back of the net. Home fans were silenced.

Suddenly, Partizan were playing like a team uncaring. Gunners’ supporters were now roaring their team on in desperation and Arsenal were enjoying all the possession.

Wave after wave of Arsenal attacks were bearing down on Partizan's goal, and after Van Persie had stung the hands of goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic, it was no surprise they re-took the lead.

A brilliant ball in from Sagna was headed out by Jovanovic. Unfortunately for the man who conceded the penalty, his night got worst as his clearance fell straight to Theo Walcott. The England winger, on as a substitute instinctively hit a dipping shot, which beat Stojkovic's despairing dive into the corner.

With the situation looking more relaxed, the Gunners put the result beyond doubt with their slickest play of the evening. Intricate one-touch passing between Nicklas Bendtner and Alex Song was surpassed by a beautiful slalom run by the Cameroonian. He touched the ball to Nasri, who, not to be outdone, turned gracefully on the penalty spot before steering his shot wide of the keeper's desperate dive, into the back of the net.

The tension had dissipated dramatically following the two-goal cushion, but Arsenal's night was soured by the late dismissal of Sagna. As Aleksandar Lazevski bore down on goal the Frenchman clipped his heels, just outside the box.

Despite having defenders back, the referee deemed it as a foul preventing a goalscoring opportunity and gave Sagna his marching orders. It was a bitter end to Arsenal's second half performance and Arsene Wenger was ugly with anger. From the resulting free-kick, Fabianski saved well from Mladen Krstajic.

It proved to be the last moment of real action at the Emirates, and Sagna's indiscretion aside, Arsenal can look back on the game with pride at their resilience and determination.



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