Feb 17th, 2010 by 'holic
The words of Cesc Fabregas summed up the evening as Arsenal snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against a side who should have been comfortably cleaned up, bagged, and disposed of. In between two ludicrously gifted goals the Gunners controlled the contest with some ease, but in the end looked a disjointed and damaged side.
We could have been behind in the opening moments but Sol Campbell’s magnificent recovering tackle on Falcao covered up his own slowness of turn in the first place. Hulk had another chance shortly afterwards but in all honesty I thought if he hadn’t put it wide then Fabianski had it covered. The events of the eleventh minute showed that may not have been the case.
Valera’s mis-hit cross from the right was coming across the face of the goal. Fabianski had quite rightly moved off his line in anticipation of the cross and stepped back into position to gather. What followed was one of those moments that even in real time you witness in slow motion. The young ‘keeper seemed to have had some mind-altering substance and was witnessing at least ten footballs coming towards him. He snatched feverishly at as many as he could get to, and sadly the one that mattered bounced off his flailing limbs and in.
Fair play to those ahead of him. There was no panic. There were no recriminations. They set about bringing the game under control, and did so very well, I thought. Just five minutes later we were level when Rosicky headed back across goal from the far post and there was Campbell, unmarked five yards out, to apply the simplest of finishes.
You could see the confidence drain from the home side, who now set about hanging on as best they could. Although Fabianski was called upon to atone for his earlier error with one fine save midway through the half, it was his opposite number who was by far the busier. Rosicky and Bendtner in particular had reason to rue his agility when both were acrobatically denied.
The second-half started as the first had ended. The visitors were assured and knocking it about well. Six minutes in came the moments that turned the result on its head. When Tomas Rosicky was blatantly flattened as he shaped to cross there were only two people in Europe who didn’t think it was a penalty. Sadly they were the Swedish equivalent of ‘See no evil, hear no evil’. The deaf one must have seen it, but didn’t realise his mate hadn’t given such an obvious foul, so didn’t bother to wave his flag. The blind one just shook the spittle from his whistle and carried on as if nothing had happened.
At the other end Sol Campbell looked to shepherd a hopeful ball back to Fabianski but clumsily got a touch. Fabianski, desperate to prove he had mastered the art of actually catching the ball did so, and Sven Blind Pew immediately, and correctly it must be said, blew his now spittle-free whistle for the indirect free-kick.
What followed defied belief. The referee grabbed the ball from Fabianski, too stupid to roll it away and give his team-mates time to wake up from their collective doze. The myopic Swede gave it to the Porto lad and immediately stepped into Campbell’s path to prevent the Arsenal defender from blocking the ball rolled sideways for a tap-in by Falcao, who looks to have aged well since achieving success with ‘Rock me Amadeus’ in 1986.
Arsene Wenger’s protestations rang a little hollow for all who remember Thierry Henry exploiting quickly taken free-kicks to our advantage, although it is fair to say I don’t recall any referees actually body-checking defenders to ensure we took full advantage of the ploy.
Thereafter I don’t think it would be too critical to say we fell apart, although we were somewhat indebted to Fabianski for making another smart save at his near post. To be honest, I think if he had let another one in we would probably have left him out there for his own good.
So I’ll apologise in advance for those who are bound to want to be offended by some of my light-hearted observations. The two goals we threw away tonight were so freaky as to not warrant anything other than beggared disbelief. If we cannot recover this situation at home, against a side who were not very good tonight and by all accounts travel badly, then we only have ourselves to blame.
Well, except perhaps for the little bit that belongs with the blind Swede last seen emerging from a bookmakers with a very large brown envelope.
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