Arsenal 3-1 Hamburg – 21/11/06 – (Champions League) 22 November, 2006Posted by lasagnechef in Champions League.
So an average performance against Hamburg gets us a 3-1 win but a great performance against Moscow and we draw 0-0? Well that’s football for you and I suppose they’ve levelled each other out. I fear again today that out unbeaten record at the Grove would be taken as in the first half it just didn’t look like it was going to be our day. Porto beat the Russians which still eaves the group wide open, we go to Porto away next. We’re top at the moment with Porto 2nd with the same points but CSKA are only two behind on 8 points so it still can go any way. I think a draw in Portugal is enough to see us through but we want Hamburg to beat Moscow to make our job easier.
People were saying prior to this game that we needed to score first however we were one nil down in under five minutes to a good van der Vaart goal. He should’ve never been allowed that time or space though but at least conceding this early you’ve got more time to come back. However it looked like it was going to be another one of those days at Ashburton Grove: countless chances, coming to close but not hitting the back of the net. Hitting the woodwork, hitting the side netting, blocks on the line…everything, but just not able to put that ball the other side of the line.
The first half we played poor but will still managed a few chances. Our main problem in the first 45 minutes was giving away the ball. Whether it was sloppy passes being intercepted or being caught in possession, we were not good at keeping the ball. Thankfully Hamburg didn’t take full advantage of that. I spent most of the first half with my head in my hands but I still thought that we’d score a goal, I know a draw wouldn’t do us much favours in the group but it’s better than nothing. I was also thinking about what it’d be like in the UEFA Cup, not something I ever want to think about again…the whistle blew for half time and all around me there were boos. I don’t know what at but I got up to try and spot someone booing, it was hopefully at the referee or something. We didn’t play well in the first half but you shouldn’t boo your players in at half time.
The team that came out for the second half was not the one that we’d just seen. We looked determined to score and soon after kick off we had a chance, I think it was Van Persie. It wasn’t a particularly good chance but it outlined our ambition to equalize. A few minutes later we had a free kick on the corner of the box with Van Persie who’d gone inches wide with a first half free kick, and Henry standing over it. Thierry took it looking to bend it into the near top corner but it just brushed the side netting, he had the goalie scrambling but a foot the other side of the post and it would’ve been 2 great free kicks in the same goal in 3 days. However the tense crowd didn’t have to wait long to see the equalizer: Fabregas picked up the ball well and played a clever through ball to Van Persie who finished beautifully just slipping it past the ‘keeper and managing to slot it in the near post. The Grove erupted and the Hamburg corner finally went silent. 1-0 to The Arsenal.
Then all game we pushed and pushed to find that winning goal, the tempo dropped a little midway through the second half and I’m sure many people thought it wouldn’t come so Wenger livened things up with some substitutions. A tired Van Persie came off for Adebayor, The Beast came on for an impressive but knackered Hleb and Ljungberg came off to be replaced by Theo Walcott, which always raises the crowd. All three subs made an impact on the game, none more so than young Theo. He livened up our game and got down the wing whipping in some great balls, and assisted the next two goals. He supplied Eboue with the ball in the area, then the full-back drove forward past the line of defence and played in a strong low cross for a tap in, it was a bit too near to the ‘keeper but the power of it took it past him and settled in the back of the net. The goalie may have even got the decisive touch to send it in but sixty thousand Gooners and Emmanuel Eboue didn’t care, we’d taken the lead with 7 minutes to go, we were now 2-1 up and surely have won the points.
I love a late 2-1 comeback in football matches, very tense but so worth it with the celebrations. I really didn’t think there’d be another goal in it but Baptista finished the story at the end. This goal will do his confidence alot of good after not the greatest performance against Newcastle. The 3rd goal involved all three substitutes: Lehmann started off the move but sending the ball long to Walcott who touched it to Adebayor playing to one-two with Theo to send him clear down the right. Henry and Baptista were in the box waiting to be picked out and Theo played a perfect ball to the unmarked Beast who finished powerfully into the open goal. A really nice goal and good to see Arsenal not faffing about with intricate passing and playing some proper route one football. 3-1 Arsenal, definitely no way back for the Germans now.
So in the end, it was a great game to go to, a 3-1 comeback with Baptista’s first goal for the club. Not the greatest of performances ever but tonight all we needed was the points. There was a negative from the game though: Henry picked up a stupid yellow card and means he misses the crucial Porto game. It should never have been a card and now we go to Portugal without the skipper, we still have enough in the side without Henry but I’d prefer him to be playing. Right I’ve really got to go, it’s nearly 1 o’clock and I’ve got to get up early in the morning. Build up to the tricky trip to the Reebok to come this week. Thanks for reading.