Contrary to expectations, a stroll in the Belgian park for Arsenal almost turned out to be a nightmare, in the Group H match last night. Standard Liege are the Belgian Champions, but this was the first time they were playing in the group stages of Champions League and Arsenal on the other hand were the semi-finalists last year with a long history in Europe.
Arsenal completed a most dramatic comeback to beat Standard after being down by two goals inside five minutes. Now it all depends on how you look at it. Did they make heavy weather of an easy outing??? Or did they show tremendous temperament in winning three points away from home to a team which gave Liverpool a tough time in qualifying last year? Or is it a case of Arsenal showing a new grit in winning matches even when they are not playing well??? I would say the first one.
Dramatic first five minutes
Vito Mannone, the 3rd choice Italian goalkeeper for the Gunners was playing in the Champions League for the first time,as his predecessors were both out injured. He had the most horrible debut 5 minutes as Arsenal founf themselves behind by 2 goals. It should be noted that it was not his mistake that let in those goals. Eduardo instead of clearing the ball from a corner,decided to backheel it to his team mate,but found Mangala, who wasted no time in unleashing a powerful left footer to the near post of a diving Mannone. Three minutes later The Serbian Jovanovic was felled by a retreating Gallas inside the box. Referee pointed to the spot and the young Italian had to retrieve the ball out of his net for the second time inside five minutes.
Bendtner’s half time finish
Coming at the back of their defeats to the Machester clubs, another defeat would have been a beating to this young Arsenal team’s confidence. The team still looked vulnerable to concede a third goal, throughout the match. Defensive frailities can cost us dear if Arsenal is playing a team which is more clinical in their finishing. Slowly and steadily Arsenal started dominating possession and creating chances and were rewarded just before half time when a Diaby through ball found a racing Bendtner, beating the defender and nailing a finish between the goalkeeper’s legs.
Late Second half goals
In the team talk,Wenger just asked the team to be patient as they would get their chances. With 10 shots on goal and 67% possesion Arsenal just piled more pressure on the Belgian side. Eventually it yielded the equaliser in the 77th minute with vermaelen able to put the ball behind the goal line in a mix-up inside the box from a Fabregas free-kick. It looks like Song was offisde and also handled the ball before giving the assist to Vermaelen. Four minutes later from a Fabregas corner, Eduardo the poacher showed his instincts and “knee-ed” the ball inside the goal. So that was vindication for being responsible for giving away the ball which led to the first Standard goal.
This leaves them with 3 points in the group and a next match at home against Olypiacos who announced Brazilian legend Zico as their new coach!!!