Despite a gutsy performance Arsenal end their season by giving up their title hopes in a two goal squeaker at Old Trafford.
Injury struck Arsenal for the umpteenth time this season as Almunia (wrist injury) was replaced in goal by Lehmann and Song replaced Senderos as partner for Gallas at center back. This pairing looked quite shaky at times with Song clearly not accustomed to the role but as the game wore on, Song looked more and more solid. Fortunately, the makeshift back two were only challenged in open play a few times as both Man U goals came from dead ball situations.
The first half was vintage 2007/08 Arsenal: mesmerizing movement and several very clear chances that required great saves by van der Saar but no goals. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, but they didn’t… and the first half ended with both teams ruing the wasted opportunities.
The second half started as more of the same, with Arsenal getting right in Man U’s faces. When the United defense botched a clearance and the ball came to Hleb, he played in RvP who crossed perfectly and Adebayor simply needed to nod the ball home. A tap-in for the lead, 1-0 to the Arsenal and Adebayor’s 26th goal of the season (TWENTY SIX). There was some controversy about the goal with the United supporters claiming a hand ball but after what Arsenal have been through with the officials these last few weeks their claims fell on deaf ears with me.
The goal awoke United and they immediately made a chance to level. In the end, it would only take them 5 minutes to get the equalizer and, of course, it came on a penalty. A shot was taken and Gallas tried to get his hand out of the way but the ball curled neatly in there and hit him inside his elbow. A harsh way to give up a penalty in my opinion. I’ve seen that decision go many different ways with the official usually allowing more leeway for the defender, but alas Howard Webb saw it as a penalty and pointed to the spot. I think Arsenal supporters the world over knew that Man U was going to get at least one penalty decision and sure enough it happened.
Ronaldo did his cheeky little stop and start run to take the penalty and Lehmann came off his line so Webb blew the whistle. I thought for sure that Webb was going to rescind the penalty because Ronaldo stopped his run up, but no, he instead gave him a second chance at the penalty. Which Ronaldo scored again. Odd. Oh yeah, and Lehmann got a yellow for time wasting or coming off his line, or maybe complaining, who knows. It was typical stuff from the German.
Man U still didn’t look threatening and so Fergie sacrificed Scholes and someone else for Anderson and someone. I really don’t care, because only Anderson made a difference. He’s a dirty little cheat who harassed and pulled Arsenal’s midfield nearly into submission Webb, though saw it as “good play.” One glaring example comes to mind: there was an exchange between he and Adebayor where Anderson clearly fouled the big man repeatedly, to the point of dragging Adebayor to the ground (no small feat) and Ade got no call. Adebayor responded like a man though and crab-tackled that little cunt. Ade got a yellow for his trouble, good for him. It was funny to hear the Man U fans screaming that Ade was “pulling a Taylor” while Anderson rolled around on the ground feigning injury to ensure the yellow.
Hell hath no fury like a Man U fan fouled.
The game started to boil over at that point. Hleb got a yellow. Rooney was defiantly kicking everyone off the pitch and repeatedly “pulling a Cole” on Webb when the ref didn’t hand out yellow cards like a pez dispenser or had the temerity to make a call against United.
And then Gilberto tackled the ball away from Evra and Evra collapsed – like he really should – and Webb was given another golden opportunity to score a goal for United. Unfortunately, he just gave them a free kick.
Hargreaves took the free kick as a one-stepper and put the ball coolly into the bottom of the net. Jens didn’t even move, except to wave his hands in disgust at something. Like I have said, I don’t know much about goalkeeping but that looked to me like Jens really bottled it. Not trying to take anything away from Hargreaves: it was a perfectly placed kick. But what Lehmann was doing all the way over where he was and why he was 100% unready for the kick only he will know.
After that, all Manchester United had to do was close the game out which they did pretty well despite the huge onslaught from Arsenal. 2-1 to Man U.
Afterwards, both bosses praised Arsenal’s performance with Fergie saying
They were very unlucky to lose you’d have to say, they gave it their biggest effort of the season and were magnificent
I have to completely agree, this is a magnificent team who are just a cunt hair away from being the best team in Europe. I hope I don’t need to remind everyone that this same team that ended last season BARELY in 4th place. Then they lost Henry and the writers and fans alike were worried — with some people predicting they would fall as far as 8th place. Well, Wenger believed and Wenger stuck with the core of the team, adding some cover in defense (Sagna, who turned out to be incredibly good) and a goal poacher to help put away some of those multitude of chances that Arsene’s system creates. Both of Wenger’s key signings got injured at the worst possible time and the season has been eerily similar to last year ever since.
They didn’t win today, but this is a team for the future, Arse fans. I say that because they showed me something today that I really didn’t expect: guts. Le Boss saw it too and made it clear his intentions for next season in his post-match comments:
This team is amazing, they keep going and I am so proud of all of them. We are out of the title race of course, we know that. We played with quality and spirit, but what can you do about the result now? We had plenty of chances and I feel we were very unlucky not to win the game, but we have to accept what happened. In the last two months we have had a blip, but we have not had much luck either and you could see that again today. I believe this team is good enough to win things and our biggest target now is to keep the group together.
This team has the people it needs to win a trophy AND this team’s got guts. Arsenal just need to get everyone healthy because sometimes, unfortunately, guts ain’t enough to win.