Who’d Have Thought It Would End Up Like This?
Arsenal beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 last night to show how their Premier League counter-parts how its done and qualify for the knockout stages.
Guest post by Arsenal fan – Gooner Daily:
In recent seasons, teams from the English Premier League have dominated Europe and they’ve been very consistent with their performances in the UEFA Champions League. In 2005, Rafa Benitez tore up the script as the club with the best defense in Europe imploded to concede three goals in just 15 minutes as AC Milan ended up losing the final on penalties to Liverpool. Arsenal came close in 2006 but many factors ranging from Jens Lehmann’s red card and more surprisingly, Thierry Henry’s woeful finishing at the start of the game coupled with Barcelona’s brilliance resulted in a 2-1 lose to Barcelona.
Manchester United made it to the semis in 2007 but they were ousted by the eventual winners AC Milan. 2008 was England’s year as Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all made it to the semis and the teams from London were made to wait a little longer for Champions League glory. The Red Devils were also impressive in 2009 but they came up against a devastating Barca team. 2010 was quite disappointing from English football’s point of view but Barcelona stood in Manchester United’s quest for glory once again last season.
Match day 5 of the UEFA Champions League had it all but the usually dominant English teams failed to live up to their billing. Manchester City were given the blues at Napoli’s San Paolo, Manchester United conceded a quick-fire equalizer to Benfica while Chelsea lost right at the death to Bayer 04 Leverkusen. So all three were made to wait to seal qualification to the knockout stages.
The statisticians were at work again in the buildup to Arsenal’s clash against Dortmund with each stat going against the German outfit. They published that Arsenal’s home record against German sides was 8W 1D and 1L and Arsenal had won 20 of their last 25 at home in Europe’s elite club competition.
Mario Gotze was a name that was uttered a lot yesterday and many people expected to see why he’s probably worth £30 mil in the big stage and he duly stepped up the plate as early as the 25th second of play. He slotted in a calm through ball for Robert Lewandowski but Wojciech Szczesny was alert to the danger.
Andre Santos waltzed forward and nutmeged a defender before teeing Robin van Persie up but his finish let him down. Alex Song dallied on the ball and he was robbed off it but Shinji Kagawa’s attempt on target was poor. Aaron Ramsey located Walcott with a pin-point pass but Dortmund’s goalie was aware of the danger.
There were notable injuries suffered by the away side. Sven Bender was stretched off after a clash with Thomas Vermaelen while Mario Gotze didn’t really get a chance to show what he’s made of. Arsenal’s first attack of the first half was splendid and it was a shame that Weidenfeller came to intercept the ball in the key moment.
Laurent Koscielny picked Ramsey up before his carefully-weighted pass was going to Walcott’s direction. The winger hit a low early cross that was arriving at van Persie’s feet but the goalie showed great anticipation. Arsenal got the breakthrough in stunning fashion.
Alex Song invoked the spirit of Lionel Messi and singlehandedly took on five or more defenders showing quick feet before sending a cross that was headed home by van Persie. Arsenal’s faithful lit the atmosphere with songs like “There’s only one Song” and “One-Nil to the Arsenal” but van Persie wasn’t done yet.
The miss of the game came up when Ramsey split Dortmund’s defense with a pass to Gervinho. The Ivorian charged down on the goalie but lost the ball in the pivotal moment. Sad.
Late on, the Dutchman showed amazing awareness as he was the first player to get one the end of Vermaelen’s flick-on to make it 2-0 from point blank range. That was his 17th goal this season and the numbers keep piling up for van Persie.
However, the party was crashed by Kagawa in the 92nd minute as he pulled one back for Dortmund after Song’s error on the ball. At the sound of the final whistle, the crowd that had a certain Thierry Henry and Roger Federer watching celebrated as Arsenal were heading straight to the knockout phase as the leaders of the group so Platini won’t be able to pair the club with Barcelona till the quarter final at least. Arsenal became the first English side this season to qualify for the knockouts, who’d have thought it?!
Szczesny (7.0) had a quiet day at the office and was on the end of many back passes in the first half.
Koscielny (7.5) looked very assured in the right back position and he’s turning out to be an able deputy for Bacary Sagna.
Vermaelen (7.5) coordinated the back line with valor and went forward to provide the assist for the match clincher.
Mertesacker (7.0) did okay against a club he played against in his Bremen days and has clearly gotten over his cock-up last Saturday.
Santos (7.0) showed his attacking verve down the left hand flank and was a joy to watch with the ball at his feet
Song (9.0) had a stormer in the midfield. Bossed the midfield like the general he is and made a Messi-esque run that saw him evade many markers to set up an assist of the season contender for van Persie. I’m really happy that Cameroon missed out on the African Cup of Nations.
Arteta (7.5) was brilliant with his short passes and steadied the midfield ship well. Made some sloppy passes though.
Ramsey (8.0) showed his amazing technique as well as close control to get the ball out of difficult situations. He also made two passes that split Dortmund’s defense like hot knife through butter but Walcott and Gervinho didn’t oblige to execute the finish that matched the proposed assists.
Walcott (6.5) didn’t really offer much offensively but did well to look like a right back at times. Supported Koscielny very well.
Gervinho (6.5) is turning out to be the shadow of the player that scored 15 goals for Lille last season. His buildup play was good but his finishing was certainly atrocious.
Van Persie (8.5) showed his predatory instinct with two well-taken goals to increase his tally of the season to 17. Sepp Blatter and the rest of the chums at FIFA needs to let everybody know why van Persie was omitted for the FIFA Golden Ball 23-man list. Pathetic if you ask me.
Benayoun (6.0) didn’t offer much in attack but did okay generally.
Djourou (5.0) had a hand in Dortmund’s party spoiler.
Diaby didn’t get a rating but it was good to see the lanky player kick the ball again after centuries out of action.
This result certainly means that Arsene Wenger can afford to field relatively unknown chaps like Thomas Cruise and Kyle Bartley again as he did against the same Olympiakos in December 2009. That day the Greek side won the contest with a lone goal.
The Olympiakos game comes up before the home tie against Everton so it will serve as an opportunity for Wenger to field another 11 with the likes of Ryo Miyaichi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the spotlight.